Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the U.S. meet to bring an end to Afghan war

ISLAMABAD - As the battlefield losses in Afghanistan mount and entire swathes of the country that cost hundreds of U.S.

See Full Article

-led coalition and Afghan military lives to secure slip back into Taliban hands, four counties -- Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States -- are meeting Monday in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad to try to craft a plan for peace in the war-shattered country.

But analysts and participants alike say that while there are four countries talking, much of the hope for progress toward peace rests with Pakistan - which is accused of harbouring some of the fiercest factions of the Taliban, including the Haqqani group, a U.S.-declared terrorist organization. Pakistan for its part says its influence over the Taliban is overrated.

"Even at the best of times they (Taliban) didn't listen to us," the Pakistani prime minister's special adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz told The Associated Press. "Look at Bamiyan," he said, referring to the Taliban's destruction in the summer of 2001 of some of the world's most precious statues of Buddha. The Taliban blew up the statues, ignoring the roars of dissent including from Pakistan.

Aziz will address the summit opening at 10 a.m. (0500 GMT). His remarks are to be carried live on the government-owned Pakistan Television.

Aziz refused to say whether Pakistan was in possession of a list of Taliban representatives who are prepared to enter into peace negotiations. The presence of such a list was announced Sunday by Javid Faisal, deputy spokesman for Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

Imtiaz Gul, whose Center for Research and Security Studies has delved deeply into the Afghan conflict and Pakistan's decades-old involvement, says Pakistan does have significant leverage with the Taliban.

Pakistan could kick out all the Afghan combatants from its territory, including the Haqqani leadership, but it is the consequences of that action that Pakistan is neither willing nor able to endure, Gul said. Militants in both countries are allied, and getting rid of the Haqqanis could unleash a violent backlash inside Pakistan, where the army has been fighting for several years to defeat a coalition of militant groups largely based in its border areas with Afghanistan.

That battle has been brutal with thousands of Pakistani soldiers killed and wounded and thousands more Pakistani civilians killed in deadly retaliatory suicide attacks by the militants.

But Gul said Pakistan's army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif, who last week went to Afghanistan, has given hints that the military is ready to move away from past support of militants, even those considered friendly to Pakistan. Travelling to Afghanistan unaccompanied by the country's powerful ISI intelligence agency, which has long been considered the force behind the Taliban, was a signal, said Gul, that Sharif was centring future policy decisions only at army headquarters.

Changes won't come quickly, says Gul, "but important for us is to turn the page (from supporting militants) and I think Gen. Raheel Sharif has turned that page."

While the Taliban are not invited to Monday's talks, a senior Taliban official, who asked not to be identified fearing exposure and capture, told The Associated Press that two Taliban delegates, currently headquartered in the Middle Eastern country of Qatar, will meet "soon" with China's representatives. The meeting, which will also include Pakistan, is to be held in Islamabad, said the official.

Still there seems little to no chance for early peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

The Taliban, which is struggling to consolidate its leadership council following the revelation last year that leader and founder Mullah Mohammed Omar had been dead for more than two years, have drawn their line in the sand: No official talks with the Afghan government on a peaceful end to their protracted and bloody war until direct talks can be held with the United States.

"We want talks with the Americans first because we consider them a direct party," the Taliban official said in a face-to-face interview with The AP.

The Taliban want recognition of their office in Qatar under the banner of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the name they used when they ruled Afghanistan until being ousted by the U.S.-led coalition in 2001. They also want the United Nations to remove the Taliban from its wanted list and it wants its prisoners released from Afghan jails.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani wants no part of giving the Taliban official recognition.

Maulvi Shazada Shaeid, a representative on Afghanistan's High Peace Council, tasked with seeking peace with the Taliban, said the distance between the two sides is vast, holding out little hope for peace.

"In the current situation it is not possible to bring peace," he said.

Barnett Rubin, a long-time adviser to the U.S. government on Afghanistan and current senior fellow at the Center on International Cooperation with New York University, probably best summed it up in an email interview on the eve of the talks, saying: "Both the Afghan government and the official Taliban leadership in Pakistan are committed to continuing the war unless the other side agrees to their framework for negotiation. The Afghan government is counting on Pakistan to tip the balance from the rear, and the Taliban are counting on tipping the balance on the front lines."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Ceasefire in effect in parts of Syria, but fighting intensifies on Lebanese border

    World News CBC News
    The Syrian army command says it has ceased its military operations in several areas near the capital Damascus but warned it will retaliate against any attack by militants. The command said in a statement carried by state TV that the cessation of operations began at noon local time Saturday. Source
  • Experts inspect Greek quake damage; islanders sleep outdoors

    World News CTV News
    KOS, Greece -- Crews of experts on Saturday began examining the damage to infrastructure and cultural monuments on the eastern Greek island of Kos after a powerful earthquake killed two tourists and injured nearly 500 others in the Aegean Sea region that stretches to Turkey's sprawling coast. Source
  • Trump Jr., Manafort may be interviewed privately by senators

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump's eldest son and his former campaign chairman won't be forced to testify publicly next week and are instead discussing being privately interviewed by a Senate committee investigating Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, the panel said. Source
  • Home Alone, Sopranos actor John Heard dead at 71

    World News CBC News
    Actor John Heard, seen in Los Angeles in this August 2, 2013, file photo, has died. (Mark Davisé/Getty Images) John Heard, best known for his roles in Home Alone, Big, and Beaches, died Friday. Source
  • Home Alone, Sopranos actor John Heard dead at 72

    World News CBC News
    Actor John Heard, seen in Los Angeles in this August 2, 2013, file photo, has died. (Mark Davisé/Getty Images) John Heard, best known for his roles in Home Alone, Big, and Beaches, died Friday. Source
  • Trump fires off volley of angry tweets on Russia probe

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — Hours before he was to help commission a new aircraft carrier at a patriotic ceremony on the Virginia coast, President Donald Trump fired off a volley of early morning tweets that again showed how furious he remains over multiple investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Source
  • 16-year-old German girl among 26 foreigners arrested in Iraq after fall of Mosul

    World News CBC News
    Three Iraqi intelligence and investigative officials have told The Associated Press that 26 foreigners — including two men, eight children and 16 women — have been arrested in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and taken to Baghdad. Source
  • Whale rescue group missions still on hold after volunteer's death

    Canada News CTV News
    Whale rescue groups are still waiting for the green light to head out and help entangled right whales after the death of one volunteer put missions on hold. The Campobello Whale Rescue Team’s boat remains tied to the dock even though a North Atlantic right whale is entangled in fishing gear in the Gulf of St. Source
  • Transgender inmate in B.C. wins right to move to a federal prison for women

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- A transgender inmate in British Columbia has won a years-long battle to serve the remainder of her sentence for first-degree murder at a women's prison. Fallon Aubee is one of the first federal prisoners to relocate under policy changes at Correctional Services Canada that allow inmates to transfer facilities based on gender identity and not physical anatomy, said Jennifer Metcalfe, a spokeswoman for the West Coast Prison Justice Society. Source
  • Philippines extends martial law in region under siege by Muslim militants

    World News CBC News
    The Philippine Congress on Saturday overwhelmingly approved the president's appeal for martial law in the south to be extended to the end of the year to help troops quell a two-month siege by ISIS-linked militants and stamp out similar extremist plots in the volatile region. Source