Karzai's Peace Talks Will Be With Pakistan, Not Taliban

After his leading peace negotiator is assassinated, the Afghan president looks east

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai is done talking peace with the Taliban. He will focus his efforts on negotiations with Pakistan, Karzai announced, a further sign that any solution to his country's instability will have to come in part from its neighbor to the east.

It's an acknowledgement that current peace talks are simply not working, a report from The Christian Science Monitor says.

The status of peace talks have been uncertain since a suicide bomber killed the head of Mr. Karzai’s High Peace Council, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, less than two weeks ago.

Though the Taliban have not claimed responsibility for the killing, the assassination raised questions about the insurgency’s willingness to engage in peace talks.

But what if the Rabbani assassination has as much to do with Pakistan – specifically the country's intelligence service – as it does with the Taliban?

The Pakistani government formally denied any involvement in the killing Sunday, a move prompted by one Afghan minister's public declaration that elements of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency had helped facilitate the killing. That allegation is "baseless and irresponsible," Pakistan's Foreign Ministry declared in a statement on Sunday.

From the Associated Press:

Afghan Interior Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi claimed in parliament Saturday that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency was involved in the suicide bombing that killed Rabbani. The government said it had given Pakistan evidence.

The Pakistani statement said the evidence consisted of the confession of an Afghan national, Hamidullah Akundzadeh, accused of masterminding the Rabbani's killing.

In a long piece about the state of Afghanistan, ten years after the U.S. launched its war effort to topple the Taliban, AFP points to another possible response to the Rabbani assassination: renewed civil war. If the Northern Alliance takes up arms to avenge Rabbani's killing, an even broader war within Afghanistan could be possible. Signs of remarkable progress are juxtaposed with continued frustration and anger in Kabul. The capital has seen "high-rise buildings, shopping centres and modern technology have transformed parts of Kabul, but many Afghans now see the 140,000 foreign troops under US command as occupiers not liberators."

When the Taliban were ousted, they fled, badly weakened, to Pakistan and violence was low for several years. But they rebuilt and 10 years later, 2011 is on track to be the deadliest year yet for civilians in Afghanistan.

"Since I've known my right hand from my left hand, we have had war in Afghanistan," said Sharif Siddiqui, a 35-year-old engineer in Kabul.

"When the Taliban were overthrown, we believed that the international allies would bring good security to our country but that didn?t happen. Instead, they have killed our civilians rather than killing Taliban militants."

The terms of debate are no less gloomy across the border in Pakistan. There, an editorial in the Daily Times reacted to the accusations about collaboration between the I.S.I. and the Haqqani terrorist network (including from Adm. Mike Mullen, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) by warning that Pakistan is "heading towards isolationism."

We need to adopt a two-pronged policy: flush the foreign elements out of the tribal areas and talk to the local tribes to eliminate local terrorists from our soil. This would help bring peace back in the region and change our image of a breeding nursery for terrorists.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.