November 25, 2010 / 8:18 PM / 7 years ago

Afghan settlement would leave no room for al Qaeda-Pakistan

LONDON (Reuters) - A political settlement in Afghanistan would leave no room for al Qaeda, which would have to “fall in line or leave the region,” a senior Pakistani politician said on Thursday.

Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman, a member of the ruling coalition who is also seen as sympathetic to the Taliban, told Reuters he was in favor of talks to end the war in Afghanistan.

The fate of al Qaeda -- holed up on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border -- was linked to the political situation in the region.

“Once stakeholders are ready for a solution, this would squeeze the room for al Qaeda,” Rehman, who is head of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam party, said.

“Al Qaeda will have to fall in line or leave the region.”

He declined to say what he meant by “fall in line.”

Security analysts say al Qaeda’s core leadership will want to do everything it can to stay on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border because it has been its most assured safe haven, thanks to alliances with local militants going back more than 20 years and the region’s challenging geography.

But if the region becomes untenable the leadership may consider moving elsewhere, perhaps to Yemen, where al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is the closest of any of the group’s offshoots to the senior leadership, some analysts say.

Rehman declined to say what he thought would be needed to bring Afghan insurgents to the negotiating table to reach a settlement, saying he was not a representative of the Taliban.

Official sources from different countries have said that insurgents and other stakeholders in the war have already held “talks about talks” on how to reach a settlement in Afghanistan, though described the process as preliminary.

However, what appeared to be a separate set of talks which U.S. officials had said were held in Kabul ended after a man believed to be a Taliban leader turned out to be an imposter, U.S. newspapers said on Tuesday.

Rehman, who is head of Pakistan’s parliamentary committee on Kashmir, was in Britain to seek support for a resolution of the Kashmir dispute, at the heart of tensions with India.

He said this should be resolved in line with U.N. resolutions which promised the people of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir a plebiscite on whether to join Pakistan or India after they won independence in 1947.

India says Kashmir is at integral of the country. It broke off a formal peace process with Pakistan after the November 2008 attack on Mumbai, which killed 166 people and which it blamed on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Editing by Andrew Roche

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