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US makes new move to engage Taliban

January 16, 2012

US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman. - Photo by Reuters

WASHINGTON: The United States launches a new diplomatic offensive on Monday to consult its allies on its efforts to reengage the Taliban, but leaves Pakistan out of the loop.

US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman left Washington on Sunday on a visit that will take him to Ankara, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Kabul and Doha.

The State Department’s spokesperson Victoria Nuland has already said that Mr Grossman will not travel to Pakistan during this 12-day visit which ends on Jan 27.

Pakistan, however, made its own move to stay relevant in the Afghan peace process, and renewed its offer to Kabul to help negotiate a deal with the Taliban.

Pakistan and Afghanistan held several rounds of talks on this issue but the assassination last year of Kabul’s chief peace envoy, former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, derailed the process.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused Pakistan of responsibility for the murder and last month he said that Pakistan was sabotaging Kabul’s efforts to engage the Taliban.

But on Sunday, an Afghan official told reporters in Kabul that Afghanistan would resume the talks.

“After Pakistan expressed readiness, the Afghan government has also agreed to resume the talks with Pakistan over the Taliban,” said Esmael Qasimyar, a senior member of the government-appointed High Peace Council.