KABUL: Afghan efforts to broker peace with the Taliban enter a new phase this week with the first scheduled visit of envoys to Islamabad. A top Afghan peacemaker said that they are “optimistic” about the parleys.
Former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani is set to lead a delegation from President Hamid Karzai’s High Council for Peace in talks with officials from Pakistan.
Islamabad has said it stands ready to facilitate dialogue between Afghanistan and the Taliban. “There will be talks with all stakeholders about bringing peace to Afghanistan,” Rabbani’s deputy Ataullah Ludin told AFP. “This trip is the beginning. We cannot talk about the result now, however, we are optimistic for all peace efforts.”
Ludin said the group would meet important personalities, including President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani but would not disclose which day the visit starts.
The move comes at the start of a crucial year for Afghanistan – limited international troop withdrawals are expected to start in July before a planned handover of responsibility for security to Afghan troops in 2014.
But some international diplomats and commanders enter 2011 convinced that the plan can only succeed if there are meaningful talks with the Taliban, and the role of Pakistan is seen as crucial.
According to Mullah Arsala Rahmani, a former Taliban mediator in Kabul, “at least 29 important Taliban leaders have been arrested by the ISI” since 2001. Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have long been tense, but the intensity of the rhetoric between them has eased since Zardari took over from Pervez Musharraf in 2008.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2011.
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