2nd round of govt-Taliban negotiations likely in late January
KABUL (Pajhwok): Next week’s quadrilateral meeting in Islamabad would discuss an elaborate plan and mechanism for negotiations between Afghan government and Taliban representatives, officials said on Saturday.
Pakistan is trying to put the peace process back on track as soon as possible, but the Afghan government wants Islamabad to devise simultaneously a strategy for dealing with the groups refusing to join the reconciliation effort.
A source close to the government and familiar with efforts for reviving the dialogue told Pajhwok Afghan News a breakthrough was expected toward the end of the current month or in early February.
Representatives of the Afghan government entered first face-to-face talks with Taliban in Murree, a tourist resort close to Islamabad, in July 2015. Chinese and American officials attended the Pakistan-facilitated meeting as observers.
Members of the outlawed Haqqani Network were also part of direct contact with the Afghan government. However, the second round of negotiations, scheduled for July 30, was put off after the announcement of Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s death.
Since the suspension of the talks, hundreds of Afghan civilians and security personnel have suffered casualties as result of a sharp spike in bombings, suicide attacks and armed clashes in Kabul and other provinces of the country.
On Friday, President Ashraf Ghani told US Senator Bab Corker his administration’s priority was strengthening defence forces. Efforts for resuming the peace talks were also discussed. The president said the military offensive would continue until Islamabad demonstrated full sincerity.
The president called for greater regional and global cooperation in the campaign against terror. “We seek cooperation from the US, particularly from Congress in equipping our security forces…”
If Pakistan did not show concrete sincerity of intent over the next couple of months, the official revealed, Afghan forces would launch an all-out spring offensive against the insurgents. Preparations for the military operation are already underway.
“Alongside peace parleys, the government wants to be fully prepared for counter-terrorism operations. So far, we haven’t received concrete peace guarantees from Pakistan,” the source said, adding Islamabad’s intentions would become clear at Monday’s meeting.
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