In view of the upcoming US presidential elections in November, peacekeeping initiatives with the Taliban are projected to gain momentum as key players begin to lay the groundwork for a crucial phase in the Afghan endgame.
Senior officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US are scheduled to meet this week in New York to review efforts that seek to bring the Afghan Taliban on the negotiating table, a senior foreign ministry official told The Express Tribune.
The meeting of what is known as the ‘core group’ will discuss, among other things, the de-listing of certain Taliban commanders from the United Nations terror list.
The meeting will be attended by Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani, US special envoy Marc Grossman and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Javed Ludin.
The previous meeting of the group was held in Islamabad in April this year, during which the three countries agreed to launch a new mechanism that seeks to provide safe passage to those Afghan Taliban who are willing to negotiate a peace deal. Under this plan, a working group has already been set up. The group held its inaugural meeting earlier this month.
A Pakistani official requesting anonymity said “certain progress” had been made to seek a peaceful end to the Afghan conflict.
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar had a very productive discussion with American officials on the Afghan situation, the official added.
“The crux of those discussions were: the US wants to achieve reconciliation with Afghan elements and for the first time there is an acknowledgement that no process can succeed without the direct involvement of Pakistan,” he explained.
It is believed that the two countries have covered some ground to bridge their differences on how to move forward on the peace-making efforts with the Taliban.
The US president’s pointman for the region, Grossman, has also held marathon discussions with Pakistani civilian and military authorities last week concerning Afghanistan.
American media reports have suggested that Islamabad and Washington are set to establish a ‘joint commission’ that would help vet candidates who can play a positive role in the Afghan reconciliation process.
A senior military official said the US had finally realized that “the road to success only comes through meaningful and broad based reconciliation.”
“Pakistan will do whatever it can to ensure peace in Afghanistan but no one should expect that the Taliban or any other Afghan group is in our pocket,” the official added.
Another official, who is part of Foreign Minister Khar’s delegation to the US, said Islamabad had asked for ‘clarity’ both from Kabul and Washington on the issue of Afghan reconciliation.
Islamabad also considers the latest developments as an attempt to appease the American audience at a time when US President Obama is seeking a second-term in office.
“We feel the US administration will adopt a more realistic approach as far as reconciliation is concerned. The Afghan peace efforts will be more unambiguous after the US elections,” said the official.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2012.