Senior officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States will meet next week here in the latest effort to keep the process of reconciliation with the Afghan Taliban on track, despite recent setbacks in the Islamabad-Washington relationship.
US special representative for the region Marc Grossman is arriving in the capital on Monday to attend the trilateral meeting on August 2, a Foreign Office official told The Express Tribune.
The three-way talks will be attended by Grossman, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and the Afghan deputy foreign minister.
This is the third meeting of what is known as the ‘Core Group’ of the three countries to develop a strategy for reconciliation with insurgents in Afghanistan in a bid to seek a peaceful end to the decade-old war.
The talks are expected to be tense in view of the ongoing row between Pakistan and the US post Osama bin Laden raid.
The unilateral American raid angered and embarrassed the Pakistani security establishment, which retaliated to the US move by expelling its military personnel and launching a crackdown against the ‘private CIA network’ in the country.
On its part, the Obama Administration punished Pakistan by withholding some $800 million in military assistance.
Grossman is the first senior US official to visit Pakistan following the withholding of some $800 million in military assistance by the US.
However, it is not yet clear if the envoy will have any bilateral engagements with the Pakistani leadership.
“[Grossman] will be here primarily to attend the meeting of the Core Group,” said a Foreign Office official.
The three-way talks will review the progress made so far towards bringing the Afghan Taliban onto the negotiating table.
The group meets for the first time since the removal of the Afghan Taliban from its terror list, by the UN Security Council, on Kabul’s request.
The Obama Administration seeks to reach out to reconcilable elements of Afghan insurgent groups before pulling out troops from the war-torn country by 2014.
However, Pakistan insists that it is being deliberately kept out of the process by the US in an attempt to undermine its role in the future political dispensation of Afghanistan.
The talks in Islamabad are also expected to discuss the recent border tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2011.