ISLAMABAD / KABUL: Pakistan-brokered peace talks between Afghanistan and Taliban insurgents could restart in early January after weeks of pressure from partners including the United States and China, officials in Islamabad and Kabul said.
Army chief General Raheel Sharif is expected in Afghanistan this week in the latest in a series of high-level contacts between Islamabad and Kabul to restart the peace process which was broken off in July.
The aim is to end more than 14 years of war with the Taliban, who held power in Afghanistan until 2001 but were overthrown in a US-backed campaign for harbouring the al Qaeda leaders behind the Sept 11 attacks.
Since then they have waged a potent insurgency against the Kabul government, stepping up their attacks since the pullout of most foreign troops in 2014. A senior Pakistani official told Reuters the resumption of talks should take “not longer than two weeks … I would say the first week of January we will see the process restart again”.
He said the current plan was for the meetings to be held in Pakistan.
The aim was to bring Afghan and Pakistani leaders together with special representatives from China and the United States as well as Taliban representatives.
“The understanding is that all stakeholders should be there, everyone with a stake in this,” said the official, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media on the issue.
According to a Taliban official in the movement’s office in Qatar, Pakistan had also asked deputy Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of a Taliban-affiliated network blamed for a spate of recent suicide attacks in Kabul, to join the talks.
But after repeated failed efforts, prospects for any immediate breakthrough appear distant, with a high risk the process may “crash soon after takeoff”, in the words of one senior Afghan official who has been closely involved.
“The Taliban are suffering from leadership chaos and the movement is fractured and it is not clear who is going to talk and which side is going to continue to fight,” said the official, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.