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Taliban’s deadliest attack derails Pakistani efforts for Afghan peace

BEIJING, May 01 (DNA) – The Afghan Taliban suicide bombing in Kabul on April 19 that killed 64 people and injured nearly 375 has thwarted fresh efforts by Pakistan to broker peace talks between the Afghan government and the insurgent group, Chinese media has reported.

Pakistan’s efforts had initially convinced the Taliban to send a delegation of key political negotiators from their office in Qatar primarily for a meeting with Afghan officials.

However, Kabul refused to meet with them as the lethal attack changed the mood in the war-torn country. The Taliban had earlier refused to take part in peace talks in March under the quadrilateral group comprising Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States.

A spokesman for the Taliban’s Qatar office, Dr. Muhammad Naeem, formally confirmed the visit on April 27 in a rare statement.

The visit was important because it was the first time the Taliban publicly confirmed their political negotiators were in Pakistan. But the office said the Taliban representatives will only discuss issues related to border affairs, refugees and their prisoners in Pakistan, Xinhua news agency has said in a comment.

Diplomatic sources in Islamabad said Pakistan had informed Afghanistan and other stakeholders about the Taliban visit. The U.S. Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Jonathan Carpenter, also arrived in Islamabad as the Taliban delegation landed here.

There was no official confirmation from the United States whether the arrival of Carpenter was linked to the presence of the Taliban delegation in Pakistan, but the timing was seen by political observers as very important.

Although the Taliban statement did not mention whether peace talks were on the agenda, Pakistan and Afghan officials admitted a meeting between the Taliban and Kabul was planned during the visit, sources close to the matter confirmed.

The Qatar office had previously distanced itself from the Pakistan-brokered direct talks between the representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban in July.

The much-publicized “Murree Peace Process” had faced a deadlock when the Afghan government revealed the death of the Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Omar, who had passed away in April 2013. However, the Taliban had kept the information a secret.

As the Taliban attack caused widespread anger, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a major shift in the government’s policy regarding the peace talks with the Taliban and Pakistan’s role in the reconciliation process.

He told parliament on April 25 “We do not expect Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.” He also pushed Pakistan “to honor the promise made in the quadrilateral agreement and carry out military operations against those who are operating within Pakistan.”

Many would agree with President Ghani’s disappointment at the Taliban’s April 19 attack as such incidents vitiate the environment for peace. No one would agree with such senseless attacks that kill and injure mostly civilians. But nevertheless observers believe the option for dialogue should be kept open.

Nearly 160,000 U.S. and NATO troops have battled the Taliban and other armed insurgent groups for 14 years, but the insurgency continually resurfaces and remains. Afghan forces have been fighting the Taliban since NATO ended its combat mission at the end of 2014, and no side has won this war militarily.

The only solution is a political one and the Taliban will have to review their quest for war. They should understand that their war now only affects their fellow Afghan citizens, as foreign troops are mainly confined to their bases.

As a sovereign nation, Afghanistan has the sole right to adopt policies in its national interest and no other country should intervene in its affairs. Other countries, especially those who are involved in the country, should only help Afghanistan in facilitating the peace talks. The ownership of the process should remain with Afghans. DNA

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