WASHINGTON: The Afghan government is pursuing a new initiative in which Pakistan will play a major role in negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban while the United States will ensure that the process moves smoothly, diplomatic sources have told Dawn.
Britain, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, which is hosting an Afghan-Pakistan summit meeting in Ankara on Tuesday, are also backing the initiative called the “Peace Process Roadmap to 2015”.
The plan includes accommodating Taliban leaders in the Afghan government and allowing them to form provincial governments in the areas under their control.
The sources, who did not want to be identified, said Afghan and Pakistani presidents would consider the new plan at the summit meeting in Ankara on Tuesday. Turkish President Abdullah Gul will join Presidents Asif Ali Zardari and Hamid Karzai in the talks.
The three leaders will discuss “means of strengthening bilateral cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan, especially at the security level”, a high-ranking Turkish diplomat said on Sunday.
A US media report by the McClatchy group of newspapers confirmed the new peace initiative but claimed that the plan would diminish the US role in the Afghan peace process.
A senior diplomatic source in Washington, however, disagreed with the suggestion.
“No one is seeking to diminish the US role. In fact, we are working with them. We have told them we will support all processes, including the US-backed move in Qatar,” the source said.
The source explained that the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to start a new initiative because there has been no movement in the previous initiative since March.
“Pakistan is doing whatever is agreed in core group meetings, with full transparency. The Afghans are the engines of this peace track,” the source said.
The core group includes the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Commenting on media reports that Taliban leaders would be asked to join the Afghan government, the source said: “The business of government posts is not for Pakistan to know, let alone suggest.”
The Afghans, the source said, initiated the new move and Pakistan was going along with them. “The Americans are also appreciative so far, as that’s what they always promoted.”
The McClatchy report said the move, while diminishing the US role, leaves room for US input on a number of critical issues, including the terms for initiating negotiations.
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