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Karzai to force Pakistan to end doublespeak on Afghan peace talks with Taliban

June 9, 2011 - Kabul

Afghan President Hamid Karzai will seek public assurances from Pakistani leaders during his forthcoming visit to Islamabad that they will protect any Taliban officials who want to enter peace talks, and arrest all others, according to Afghan officials.

Afghan leaders say they are looking for meaningful gestures from Pakistan's leaders that they will not attempt to quash any peace talks Afghanistan launches with Taliban leaders and their insurgent allies.

"Pakistan has to encourage all those elements that they will talk to us and give them a guarantee. And Pakistan has to arrest all others that are not ready to make peace with us."" The Wall Street Journal quoted Karzai's National Security Adviser, Rangin Dafdar Spanta, as saying.

Karzai's attempts to start peace negotiations have led to few concrete results, the report said, adding that Afghan and Western officials say Islamabad has stood in the way of talks, which the United States has supported.

Last year, Pakistan arrested the Taliban's No. 2 leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, because, Afghan and Western officials say, he had opened secret, direct contacts with the Afghan government.

The arrest scuttled tentative Taliban contacts with Kabul and created a deterrent for further Taliban outreach.

Pakistan has long provided sanctuary for Taliban leaders and expects to play a central role in any peace deal so that it retains its place as a regional power broker, the report said.

Afghan leaders say they want to see public assurances from Pakistan. During the trip, Afghan officials are expecting Pakistan to publicly declare that it wants key Taliban leaders, including Mullah Omar, "to join the peace process sooner rather than later," it added.

The Afghan government will ask Pakistan "to give a clear message to the Taliban leaders that Pakistan has changed its policy and now supports Afghan-led reconciliation," said a senior Afghan official familiar with talks held to prepare for Karzai's visit to Islamabad.

"Unless Pakistan cooperates, the peace effort will not succeed," said Karzai's Deputy National Security Adviser, Shaida Mohammad Abdali. "We are hoping that Pakistan will facilitate peace dialogue in whatever manner they can, whether they bring them over to the table- or by other means."


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