KANDAHAR: Afghan officials are holding talks with the Taliban in Pakistan, the head of a provincial peace council in the insurgency's heartland Kandahar said on Tuesday, in a possible signal that Islamabad is boosting its support for Afghan peace efforts.
Kandahar peace council head Ata Mohammad Ahmadi told Reuters the officials have been meeting for "some time" with mid-level Taliban commander in the southwest Pakistani city of Quetta, where the leadership of the militant group is said to be based.
"In the last 10 days, our peace council delegation have gone to Quetta three times in twos and threes," he said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government has repeatedly called on regional power Pakistan to support its efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.
Ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan were strained for months after the assassination in September of Afghan peace envoy and former president Burhanuddin Rabbani.
Afghan officials blamed Pakistan's intelligence agency, allegations angrily denied by Islamabad.
But Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said after a recent trip to Kabul that a lot of the ill will between the neighbours had faded. She said Pakistan would encourage Afghan militant groups to pursue peace if asked by Kabul.
Karzai held talks with Pakistani leaders in Islamabad last week.
"We are very optimistic about President Karzai's recent trip to Pakistan and that may have opened the door," Arsala Rahmani, a senior member of Afghanistan's High Peace Council – tasked with reaching out to insurgents - told Reuters.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Karzai said: "While emphasising the importance of Pakistan's support for the peace process, I hereby request our brotherly government of Pakistan to support and facilitate our direct negotiation efforts as part of the peace process."
Afghanistan is known to want access to Taliban leaders belonging so the so-called Quetta Shura, named after the city where it is believed to be based.
The Kabul government believes they would be the decision makers in any substantive peace negotiations aimed at ending the war now in its eleventh year.
Pakistan, seen as critical to efforts to stabilise Afghanistan, has consistently denied giving sanctuary to insurgents and denies that any Taliban leaders are present in the southwestern city of Quetta, near the Afghan border.
It is unlikely that any meetings between Afghan officials and Taliban commanders could take place in Quetta without the knowledge of Pakistan's pervasive intelligence agencies.
Pakistan may have stepped up its cooperation with the Afghan government by allowing what Ahmadi said were meetings in Quetta. Pakistani officials were not immediately available for comment.
It was unclear if the reported Quetta meetings were part of broad Afghan government efforts to bring the Taliban into peace talks under the 70-member High Peace Council set up by Karzai.
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@ Akhtar : **This is a dangerous game your playing, and the results can already be seen, Pakistani society has been so radicalized that I cant even compare it with the days back in the 1990s. Furthermore Pakistan always complain about its sovereignty being violated by the US, look what your establishment has done to Afghanistan by supporting its proxies over the last 30 years dont you think your violating Afghan sovereignty, double standards I guess ;) In my opinion Pakistan should concentrate on the betterment of her economy instead of interfering in other countries because at the end of the day what the average Pakistani want is a decent life and not interfering in other countries. Just my two cents :)
Might as well been a statement from the Pak army itself, openly confessing to the long time double games deceit, supporting and controlling extremist Kharjite militant terrorists for parts of another 'sovereign nation', Afghanistan, threatening to psychotically continue on with more bloodshed in Af-Pak, sabotaging any peace, unless their demands of power are met.
I love the picture. Their poses are usually funny to begin with but that guy on the right in white looks like he's writing his name in the snow and that's just priceless. "Death to Amer... Hold on, bathroom break, Ok, vogue. What? You already took the picture?! You hate Islam!"
But the Taliban leaders are not supposed to be in Pakistan! What is happening??
Why talk to Taliban? Talking to our Generals would do, & let them convince our chiefs. But, karzai as president is not to Pakistani's. The Taliban has to control the eastern side full including Kandahar, nimruz, Helmand. All the afghan armed forces must be withdrawn from these provinces & only the Taliban must have effective control. Until all these conditions are accepted, we should not allow the Haqqani's to sign a peace deal!
The TTP, many well known religious leaders including the one who met Karzai in his recent visit are all the right and left wings of talibanz, so why this fuz is about, you can meet three Talibans a day in boarder areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
They met Mullah Omar? Only Allah knows whats happening behind the scene