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Karzai Welcomes Pakistan's Help in Negotiating with Taliban

  • Ayaz Gul

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has concluded two days of meetings with Pakistani civilian and military leaders, saying Islamabad has a "significantly important" role to play in peace talks his government is encouraging with Taliban insurgents.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's meetings with Pakistani leaders occurred amid renewed efforts his government is making to hold reconciliation talks with Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan and his plans to hold a peace conference in Kabul next month.

Speaking at a news conference with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, President Karzai praised Pakistan's support for the Afghan peace efforts. He says the neighboring countries need to work together to remove the dangers of terrorism they face.

"I am thankful to you, Mr. Prime Minister, for offering support to Afghanistan's efforts for reconciliation," Mr. Karzai said. "Indeed, Pakistan has a significantly important role to play in that and Afghanistan will welcome that role. We in Afghanistan are fully aware and recognize that without Pakistan, and without its cooperation in Afghanistan, Afghanistan cannot be stable or peaceful."

Pakistan is known to have created and helped the Taliban to take control of Afghanistan in the late 1990s. The Pakistani military has remained under sustained criticism in recent years for turning a blind eye to fugitive Taliban fighters using the country's territory for attacks on U.S.-led foreign and local troops across the Afghan border.

But the recent arrest of several key Afghan Taliban commanders in Pakistan has fueled speculation Islamabad is cutting ties with the Afghan insurgents.

Mr. Karzai also tried to address a major Pakistani complaint that rival India is allegedly using the Afghan territory for creating instability in Pakistan. While calling India a close friend of his country, the Afghan leader described Pakistan as a "twin brother" of Afghanistan and assured the leaders in Islamabad that no country, including India, will be allowed to use Afghan soil against any other nation.

The bottom line is that Afghanistan does not want any proxy wars on its territory," Mr. Karzai said. "It does not want a proxy war between India and Pakistan on Afghanistan, it does not want, a proxy war between Iran and the United States on Afghanistan."

Recent deadly attacks on Indian interests and killings of Pakistani nationals in different parts of Afghanistan have fueled speculation Islamabad and New Delhi are locked in a struggle for influence in Afghanistan as foreign forces withdraw from the country.

While in Islamabad, President Karzai called on the Pakistani government to hand over key Afghan Taliban leaders recently captured in Pakistan, including deputy commander of the insurgents, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Prime Minister Gilani told reporters his government has yet to determine the fate of the detainees.

"We have our own judiciary ... We are consulting the legal experts too, and we will sit with them (Afghan officials) and discuss it and get back to the honorable president," Mr. Gilani said.

Mr. Karzai says he has accepted a Pakistani offer of supplies of ammunition and other military-related equipment for Afghan security forces. But the Afghan leader said his government will get back to Islamabad after studying another offer to train Afghan troops.