Pakistan meeting seeks to revive Afghan peace process

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Pakistan will present a list of Taliban representatives willing to negotiate with Kabul at a four-nation meeting this week aimed at reviving the Afghan peace process, an Afghan official said Sunday.

Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States are scheduled to meet in Islamabad on Monday to discuss a road map for peace talks. The meeting will not include the Taliban.

Javid Faisal, deputy spokesman for Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, said Pakistan’s list will include Taliban members who are and are not willing to participate in talks with Kabul on ending the 15-year war.

The agreement would also include “bilateral cooperation on eliminating terrorism,” Faisal said.

Those who are interested in peace can join the dialogue, but those who wish to continue the fight will be targeted through joint counter-terrorism platforms,” Faisal said.

Terms for the upcoming meeting had been finalized last month during a visit to Kabul by Pakistan’s powerful army chief of staff Gen. Raheel Sharif, Faisal said.

Pakistani officials could not be immediately reached for comment. Pakistan has consistently denied U.S. and Afghan allegations that it gives financial or material support to Afghanistan’s Taliban. But Islamabad had acted as liaison between Kabul and the Taliban leadership.

Monday’s meeting in Islamabad could revive a process that collapsed last summer after Afghanistan announced that Mullah Mohammad Omar, founder and leader of the Taliban, had died in a Pakistani hospital more than two years ago.

The announcement led the Taliban to pull out of the talks after just one meeting hosted by Islamabad. A subsequent power struggle within the Taliban has raised questions about who would represent the insurgents if and when the talks with Kabul are restarted.

The Taliban have stepped up attacks since the U.S. and NATO formally ended their combat mission in Afghanistan a year ago, and the insurgents are battling local Afghan security forces on several fronts. Last year the Taliban seized the northern city of Kunduz and held it for three days before being driven out by a costly counteroffensive.

In the southern province of Helmand, government forces have been struggling to fend off Taliban advances for weeks. The Taliban say they captured a government compound in the strategic Sangin district over the weekend, claims denied by Afghan officials.

Fighting has also been going on in northeastern Takhar province, where the Interior Ministry said Monday it had retaken control of the Darqad district, which borders Tajikistan. A ministry statement said 20 Taliban fighters were killed in an operation launched two days ago to clear the district of insurgents.

The Taliban are expected to keep up the fight even if peace talks get off the ground in order to secure territory and improve their leverage in the negotiations.


Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez in Kabul, Afghanistan contributed to this report.