Pakistan in behind-the-scenes push to assist US-Taliban talks

Pakistan in behind-the-scenes push to aid US-Taliban talks

WASHINGTON: Pakistan has begun to play a behind-the-scenes however central function in supporting US peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, together with by facilitating journey to negotiations, US officers and Taliban sources say.

Additionally learn: How Pakistan may help with the Afghan peace course of

The Pakistani help, which has not been reported in such element earlier than, additionally contains exerting strain on the Taliban leaders who fail to cooperate, together with by detaining members of the militants’ households, the insurgents say.

The Pakistani function within the peace negotiations is a fragile one, with Islamabad searching for to keep away from demonstrating the sort of broad affect over the Taliban that Washington has lengthy accused it of getting. Sources warning its assist could possibly be momentary.

Know extra: Pakistan warns US in opposition to ‘dangerous’ allegations of offering ‘protected havens to militants’

A Taliban chief says Pakistan has saved ‘unprecedented strain’ on the militants and their family members over the previous few months

The Taliban additionally don’t wish to seem beholden to Islamabad, which has lengthy denied US accusations that it gives protected haven and help to insurgents as a strategy to protect affect in Afghanistan all through its greater than 17-year-old battle.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly signalled his intention to wind down America’s longest battle, declaring this week in his State of the Union handle that “nice nations don’t battle countless wars”.

One senior US official, who declined to be recognized, mentioned of Pakistan’s function within the talks: “We all know it simply wouldn’t be doable with out their help. They’ve facilitated some motion and journey to the discussions in Doha.”

Trump’s administration has accelerated talks for a political settlement in Afghanistan. US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad held six days of talks — maybe the best to this point — with the Taliban in Doha final month and is because of meet Taliban representatives once more on Feb 25.

Taliban sources mentioned that Pakistan’s function in bringing the militant leaders to the negotiating desk was instrumental. In a single occasion, Islamabad despatched a message to the militants by way of spiritual leaders that they needed to discuss to the USA or threat a cut-off in ties.

They detained Taliban members’ households as a strategy to strain them, a Taliban chief informed Reuters.

“I haven’t seen Pakistan so critical earlier than,” the senior Taliban chief mentioned.

The Taliban chief, who declined to be named, mentioned Pakistan had saved “unprecedented strain” on the militants and their shut family members over the previous few months.

“They made it clear to us that we (Taliban) have to speak to the US and Afghan authorities,” the Taliban chief mentioned.

US Common Joseph Votel, who leads the US navy’s Central Command, hinted at some sort of Pakistani help in a Senate listening to this week, saying Islamabad had “performed a extra useful function”.

To make certain, present and former US officers nonetheless are extremely sceptical of Islamabad and don’t see any steps by Pakistan that might not be simply reversed.

Washington seems for now to be sticking to a complete freeze in US help to Islamabad imposed over a yr in the past over its alleged help to the Taliban. Trump on the time accused Islamabad of rewarding previous US support with “nothing however lies & deceit”.

“There’s some self-interest clearly concerned right here … I’d be cautious of taking that and extrapolating off that and saying they’re now on board with the peace course of,” mentioned Jason Campbell, who was the Pentagon’s Afghanistan nation director till final yr.

Pullout strain
Pakistani sources counsel that the driving force behind their nation’s help for the talks will not be US support however rising issues over the regional financial shockwaves that might comply with an abrupt US pullout from Afghanistan.

These issues have been strengthened by Trump’s shock choice in December to withdraw utterly from Syria, regardless of objections from the Pentagon.

There are solely about 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan for the time being, however their presence ensures a steady circulate of US monetary help to Afghanistan.

Islamabad, operating in need of overseas change reserves and in talks with the Worldwide Financial Fund over what can be its 13th bailout because the 1980s, says it can’t afford to see Afghanistan slide into chaos simply as Pakistan is making an attempt to draw overseas traders to shore up its personal economic system.

“That’s our principal fear in all of this,” mentioned a senior official who’s intently concerned in cross-border relations. “Now we have sufficient financial problems with our personal to take care of already.”

One of the vital notable public indicators of Pakistan’s willingness to assist the negotiations was the discharge of Taliban chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Now the newly appointed chief negotiator, Baradar is predicted to fly from Pakistan to attend the subsequent spherical of negotiations in Doha on Feb 25.

Dan Feldman, a former US particular consultant for Afgh­anistan and Pakistan, mentioned he believed Washington was nonetheless hesitant to grow to be too hopeful about Pakistan’s change in posture.

“There may be cautious appreciation for the truth that Pakistan has seemingly accomplished greater than earlier than to be useful,” Feldman mentioned, earlier than including that it didn’t “counsel a sea change in Pakistan’s place”.

Printed in Daybreak, February ninth, 2019
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