Fear spurs drive for talks with Afghan Taliban
ISLAMABAD — For the last decade, the United States and Afghanistan have viewed Pakistan as part of the problem as they worked to subdue the Afghan insurgency. Yet suddenly the three countries are working together for an Afghan peace, with Pakistan handling one of the trickiest aspects of the effort: bringing the Taliban to the talks.
From villain, Pakistan has emerged as the key to working out a deal, an amazing transformation for a country that was long viewed as the Taliban's main foreign backer when they were in power in Afghanistan, and whose territory, willingly or unwillingly, provided a haven when U.S. and NATO forces drove the Taliban from power in 2001.
Driving the new collaborative spirit after years of acrimony, diplomats say, was one thing: fear that chaos will follow the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014. Such anarchy could cost thousands more lives in Afghanistan, make a mockery of the U.S.-led coalition's claims of success, threaten the security of Pakistan and allow international terrorists, including al-Qaida, to find sanctuary there again. Other countries also are involved heavily in the diplomatic push for peace negotiations, especially Turkey and the United Kingdom. Last month, Pakistan took the first step in trying to build confidence, freeing 18 low-ranking Taliban prisoners whose release the extremists had sought.
Pakistan had been ready to cooperate a year ago, said diplomats who, like other officials quoted here, spoke only on the condition of anonymity. But that was impossible because relations between Washington and Islamabad nearly broke down in the wake of a “friendly fire” incident in November last year in which American aircraft killed 24 Pakistani soldiers manning a border post. Ties between Pakistan and the United States were repaired only this summer.
Pakistan has called for a political settlement with the Taliban for years, an arrangement that would give them a share of power in Afghanistan. But the Afghan government until now hasn't been willing to trust Pakistan, suspecting that the Pakistanis wanted a return of the Taliban government, and the United States has pursued a policy that saw negotiations as something that could be done only after decisive gains on the battlefield.
But that attitude has changed as it has become clear that the surge of troops President Obama ordered to Afghanistan in 2009 failed to change the course of the war. With thousands of troops having returned home and tens of thousands more to follow soon, a cease-fire wouldn't be so painful for the United States.
The new cooperative effort envisions a cease-fire in the second half of next year. It contemplates the Taliban holding public posts that would essentially hand them control of parts of Afghanistan.
For Pakistan, a peace accord is vital because it has a ferocious extremism problem of its own, including a Pakistani version of the Taliban. Islamabad thinks that once the Afghan Taliban and its allied Haqqani network are politically accommodated in Afghanistan, they will abandon Pakistani territory. That would allow Pakistan to move against its own militants.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Criminal investigation at United Nations snares one of its former presidents
- U.S. allies in Syria struck by Russians
- Abbas appeals for end to chaos with Israel
- Eastern European gangs smuggle nuclear materials, seek terrorist clients
- EU offers to ease Turkey’s refugee burden
- Mexico’s army chief denies troops involved in massacre
- Canadian, Japanese physicists win Nobel for neutrino work
- Palestinians barred from Old City amid Jewish festival
- 3 share Nobel medicine prize for new tools to kill parasites
- Dead families huddled, died in Guatemala mudslide
- Israel ready to resume peace talks with Palestinians, Netanyahu says