Pakistan says Afghan peace requires clarity from U.S., Taliban

Mon Jun 25, 2012 5:34am EDT
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By Missy Ryan and Hamid Shalizi

KABUL (Reuters) - A hoped-for peace deal ending the war in Afghanistan will likely remain out of reach unless both the United States and the Taliban put more clear, consistent offers on the table, a senior diplomat from Afghanistan's influential neighbor Pakistan said.

"We don't think all these issues can be solved by fighting. There must be a political process, but the parties need to be serious about it," Mohammad Sadiq, Islamabad's ambassador in Kabul, told Reuters in an interview.

"There is a lack of clarity on both sides," Sadiq said, referring to the U.S. and Taliban negotiating positions.

The role of Pakistan, with deep historic ties to the Taliban, will be pivotal in U.S. efforts to broker a peace deal between the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the militant group, whose leaders are believed to based in Pakistan.

After more than 10 years of costly NATO efforts failed to defeat the Taliban on the battlefield, Western nations have embraced the goal of a negotiated end to the conflict even as they prepare to withdraw most combat troops by the end of 2014.

But the Obama administration's hopes for quickly setting up negotiations between the Karzai government and the Taliban were dealt a blow in March when the Taliban's reclusive leadership suspended participation in preliminary talks.

U.S. diplomats had hoped their initial meetings with Taliban representatives would set in motion the transfer of former Taliban officials held in Guantanamo Bay military prison to Qatar, the release of a U.S. soldier held by the Taliban, and eventually authentic peace talks among the Afghan parties.

A U.S.-educated diplomat who is a key Pakistani official on peace efforts, Sadiq said that despite deep skepticism among U.S. and Afghan officials - many of whom would accuse Pakistan itself of inconsistency - Pakistan supported the goal of a such a peace deal for Afghanistan.   Continued...