Pakistan, Afghanistan trying to turn Taliban into political movement

Mon Dec 24, 2012 5:43am EST
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By Michael Georgy

KABUL (Reuters) - Pakistan is genuine about backing a nascent Afghan peace process and shares the Kabul government's goal of transforming the Taliban insurgency into a political movement, a senior Afghan government official told Reuters.

Pakistan is seen as critical to U.S. and Afghan efforts to promote peace in Afghanistan, a task that is gaining urgency as NATO troops prepare to withdraw by the end of 2014 and hand over security responsibilities to government forces.

"They have told us that they share the vision contained in our roadmap which is basically to transform the Taliban from a military entity into a political entity to enable them to take part in the Afghan political process and peacefully seek power like any other political entity in Afghanistan," the official said, referring to Pakistan.

"This is the vision that they share."

The official's remarks signaled unprecedented optimism from Afghanistan that Pakistan - long accused of backing Afghan insurgents - was now willing to put its weight behind reconciliation efforts, which are still in early stages and vulnerable to factionalism.

Mutual suspicions between Afghanistan and its nuclear-armed neighbor, Pakistan, have hampered efforts to tackle militancy in one of the world's most explosive regions.

Pakistan has long been seen as determined to block the influence of old rival India in Afghanistan and has been believed to be quietly supporting the Taliban in the hope they would exclude from power rival, pro-India Afghan factions.

Afghanistan and Pakistan appear to now agree that it is in their interests to work more closely together, with the NATO deadline looming.   Continued...

Taliban militants hand over their weapons after joining the Afghan government's reconciliation and reintegration program, in Herat province May 14, 2012. REUTERS/Mohammad Shoiab