June 13 (Bloomberg) -- Pakistan backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s moves for reconciliation in Afghanistan that include trying to bring the Taliban movement to peace talks.
Karzai and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani joined the first meeting yesterday of an Afghan-Pakistani commission that will help work for reconciliation, held during a visit by the Afghan leader to Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.
“We have extended unequivocal support to the reconciliation process in Afghanistan with the provision that it has to be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led,” the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan cited Gilani as saying after he hosted talks with Karzai.
Karzai has appointed an Afghan peace council that includes former members of the Taliban and has opened contacts with the guerrillas. U.S. government officials say the Afghan Taliban receives support from within Pakistan’s army as they attack U.S. and Afghan government troops from strongholds in Pakistan’s border areas.
Pakistan and Afghanistan will improve their intelligence and military cooperation as they work to counter terrorism that has “held the progress of our two countries hostage for years,” Gilani said June 11. After the leaders met, twin bomb blasts at a market in Peshawar, northwestern Pakistan, killed at least 37 people, Mujahid Khan, a spokesman for the Edhi ambulance service, said in a phone interview.
Karzai said his meetings in Islamabad were “very important” and will enhance Afghan-Pakistan relations, APP reported. The countries must “move forward from mutual trust and reassurances to practical steps,” Karzai said, according to APP.
The inauguration of the commission, headed by the chairman of the Afghan Peace Council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, is a “milestone in bilateral cooperation and a manifestation of desire to work closely with Afghanistan for peace in that country,” Gilani said.
Karzai’s trip comes as U.S. concern over rising American debt has helped increase calls in Congress for the White House to withdraw a substantial number of U.S. troops from Afghanistan beginning next month, when President Barack Obama has said he will announce the first reductions. Obama has pledged to fully transfer security duties to the Afghan government by 2014.
No peacemaking can succeed without the approval of Pakistan’s military, especially its Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, Nur ul-Haq Uloomi, a former top Afghan army general, said last week.
“In any peacemaking with the Taliban, Pakistan can bring them to negotiations” because of the intelligence agency’s longtime sponsorship of the group, said Uloomi, who helped lead similar reconciliation efforts in the 1980s between Afghanistan’s then-communist government and guerrillas backed at the time by Pakistan and the U.S.
“Karzai is in a weak position,” with no means to force Pakistan into pressing the Taliban to make concessions for peace, Uloomi said in a phone interview. “Only pressure from the international community will be able to do that,” he said.
U.S. officials have been critical in recent months of what they called Pakistan’s support for the Afghan Taliban who are fighting and killing U.S. troops.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said last month that the U.S. should threaten to curtail economic aid to Pakistan unless its military reverses its support for what may be the Taliban’s most potent military faction, commanded by Jalaluddin Haqqani.
Such calls in Congress have grown since the killing last month of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and were amplified with the release on June 8 of a report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that almost $19 billion in U.S. aid to Afghanistan has failed to build a sustainable government and has promoted corruption.
--With assistance from Anwar Shakir in Peshawar, Pakistan, Eltaf Najafizada in Kabul, James Rupert in New Delhi. Editors: Paul Tighe, Jim McDonald
To contact the reporters on this story: Paul Tighe in Sydney at firstname.lastname@example.org; Haris Anwar in Islamabad at Hanwar2@bloomberg.net
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