Pakistan, Afghanistan, US consider safe passage for Taliban peace talks

Published: April 27, 2012

Pakistan's Foreign Secretary says formation of the group exploring safe passage was a tangible accomplishment. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States said they would explore ways to arrange safe passage for Afghan Taliban militants who wish to engage in peace talks, officials from the three countries said on Friday.

While not yet making an iron-clad guarantee, officials told a news conference in Islamabad they would form a group of experts to consider the proposal.

“We need to be able to find them, those who are willing to talk wherever they are,” Afghan deputy foreign minister Jawed Luddin said. “We need to provide … a safe passage and an environment where they feel safe and confident that they can engage in peace talks without any consequence.”

Representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States were meeting in Islamabad for two days as part of an initiative to revive stalled peace talks with the Afghan Taliban and to smooth relations between Washington and Islamabad.

Washington’s Special Representative Marc Grossman led the US delegation. He was the highest-level American official to visit Pakistan since a Nov 26 cross-border attack by Nato forces left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead and the US-Pakistan relationship in tatters.

The United States has been working for more than a year to revive stalled peace talks with the Afghan Taliban as it prepares for the withdrawal of most foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

That campaign has become central to US strategy as officials conclude the Afghan war will not end on the battlefield alone.

“We really welcome this … initiative of the safe passage, which will mean our experts can meet and take this process further,” Luddin said.

Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Jalil Jilani said the formation of the group exploring safe passage was a tangible accomplishment.

An “important aspect of this group will be an establishment of the subgroup on the safe passage,” Jilani said.

Efforts to salvage the peace process follow a series of US setbacks in Afghanistan: bloody riots caused by soldiers’ burning of the Quran; a staff sergeant’s alleged massacre of 17 villagers; and an 18-hour militant assault of Kabul last week.

Still, officials point to statistics charting a drop in ‘enemy-initiated attacks’ this spring. They were encouraged by recent steps to finalize a deal outlining the US-Afghan relationship, along with statements of support for the peace process by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

US officials hope to use all these developments to coax the Taliban’s leadership, under pressure from less senior fighters who oppose negotiations, to formally resume talks.

Reader Comments (8)

  • Much Amused
    Apr 27, 2012 - 3:46PM

    No need for safe passage etc. Use video conferencing using mobile network/satellite phone. Guarantee the taliban that their call location will not be bombed for at least one month.

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  • Falcon
    Apr 27, 2012 - 5:36PM

    Interesting development. But this is the problem with this style of U.S. politics,it is too reactive. Had they pursued this approach earlier (at least few years ago), results might have been more beneficial. Taking this approach in response to their own fatigue in Afghanistan and rising threats of Taliban conveys a sense of weakness and gives Taliban upper hand in the negotiations.

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  • Jamset Ram Sing
    Apr 27, 2012 - 6:07PM

    The U.S./NATO group have only been fighting the Taliban for eleven years and now that it is becoming quite obvious that the Taliban has taught them the same lesson they taught the RAJ and Russia they have decided to talk to the Taliban. Quick aren’t they? I do not understand the electronics involved, but Much Amused is quite right. The Taliban should not give out their phone number without assurances, Even then, can America’s word be trusted?

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  • Thoughtful
    Apr 27, 2012 - 6:09PM

    He great shadow play! The taliban is unacctable to 3 of your neighbours..Iran, india and Afghanistan. They know whats up.

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  • Hit-Man
    Apr 27, 2012 - 7:40PM

    Americans are desperate to sign an agreement with the Talebans for an honourable exit from Kabul. However, the Taleban who are at the position of strength are reluctant to do so and as well as waiting for Pakistan to give them the nod. Funny situation is it ?

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  • DB
    Apr 27, 2012 - 7:50PM

    Pakistan should enlist its liberals into the army in a special brigade for fighting the taliban. They can continue fighting the taliban long after the US has left Afghanistan. You kill two birds with one stone.

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  • Bakir Mukeem
    Apr 27, 2012 - 8:03PM

    Read a book called “taliban the phenomenon” you would clearly understand whats gonna happen in negotiations and whats gonna be the outcome……………….

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  • Adam
    Apr 28, 2012 - 4:11AM

    Please stop this drama, were we fighting for this cause at the end to sign agreements with terrorists ? No way,

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