NEW DELHI: Afghanistan expects to restart peace talks with the Taliban within six months, chief executive Abdullah Abdullah said on Thursday, pinning hopes on factions within the militant group that might be ready to give up violence.
Talks between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban have been on hold since efforts collapsed last year after it became known that Mullah Mohammad Omar had been dead for two years, throwing the group into disarray.
Mr Abdullah said that Mullah Omar’s death had left the Taliban deeply divided, making peace negotiations complicated, but there was reason to hope that talks to end 15 years of bloodshed in the South Asian country could resume.
“There might be groups among the Taliban who might be willing to talk and give up violence,” he said in an interview in New Delhi, where he held talks with Indian leaders on bilateral issues.
“It should be sooner than six months,” Mr Abdullah said, when asked when he expected talks with the Taliban to begin.
He said there had been contact between Taliban factions willing to give up violence and Afghan security agencies, but he declined to give further details.
His comments came ahead of a meeting between four countries — the United States, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan — in Islamabad on Feb 6 to lay the ground for talks that President Ashraf Ghani’s government wants to conduct with the militant group.
China had a role to play in the Afghan peace process because of the challenge it faced in its Xinjiang province from the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which was fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan, Mr Abdullah said.
Equally important were Beijing’s close ties with Islamabad, he added, because that could help coax the Taliban to the negotiating table.
China, Pakistan and the United States had agreed to use their influence to facilitate talks with the Taliban, Mr Abdullah said.
The countries were discussing issues including where to hold talks with Taliban factions who decided to come to the table and what to do about those who stayed away, he added.
Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2016