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Afghan, Pakistan Leaders to Meet in Islamabad to Discuss Insurgency


About 50 Afghan political and tribal leaders have gone to Pakistan for a meeting with their Pakistani counterparts to discuss the insurgency on both sides of the border. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Kabul reports the Afghans are hoping the conference can agree on a road map to peace for both countries.

Politicians, respected elders and Muslim clerics from Afghanistan and Pakistan will hold talks - dubbed as a mini-jirga -- in Islamabad from Monday to see if they can agree on joint action to end the rising violence by al-Qaida and Taliban militants.

The jirga system has been used for more than one thousand years by the region's Pashtun tribal leaders to decide important matters.

The two-day meeting in Pakistan is seen as a follow-up to a grand jirga last year in Kabul, when Afghans and Pakistanis pledged not to let their respective countries become training centers and sanctuaries for terrorism.

The reality is that militants, fighting both governments, continue to operate in the two countries.

The Afghan delegation, composed of all the major ethnic components in the country, is being led by former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah. Just before boarding the flight from Kabul to Islamabad, he told reporters the Afghans would do their best to reach agreement with their Pakistani counterparts on the path to peace.

But Abdullah cautions against expectations of quick results, saying it is difficult to solve a deep-rooted problem by taking just one step.

Analysts say the jirga system can play a major role as Pashtuns live in both countries and some sympathize with the Taliban, who are also mainly Pashtun.

With attacks on the increase in Afghanistan and Pakistan the mini-jirga could decide to expedite dialog with the Taliban.

Many prominent voices in the international community are endorsing the idea of talks with the fundamentalist rebels here, if the Taliban agree to the Afghan government's conditions to recognize the country's constitution and lay down their weapons.

Afghanistan's Taliban have expanded the number of bombing attacks in their guerilla war against the government.

In Pakistan, the Taliban there have been linked to al-Qaida and their Afghan counterparts.

There are 70,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, combating the insurgency and helping to rebuild the country devastated by decades of war and the Taliban regime, which was ousted by U.S. forces seven years ago.



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