Afghanistan accused Pakistan today of placing unacceptable conditions on efforts to bring peace to the country after nearly 12 years of war, the latest in a series of barbed exchanges that has sunk relations between the two neighbours to a new low.
A breakdown in ties threatens to hinder or even paralyse attempts to lure the Taliban to the negotiating table. That’s a key goal of the United States and its allies as they work for a peaceful solution in Afghanistan ahead of the final pullout of foreign combat forces in 20 months.
Afghanistan and its international backers consider Pakistan a critical player in bringing the Taliban and other militant groups into peace talks. Pakistan holds dozens of Taliban prisoners and has been accused of backing the insurgents in an effort to be able to exert influence in Afghanistan after foreign troops leave.
A senior Pakistan official said, however, that Islamabad remained committed to reconciliation.
That’s why Pakistan recently released 26 Afghan Taliban prisoners from its jails, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly. Pakistan remains in contact with members of the Taliban who have been empowered to talk about reconciliation, he said.
A failure to bring peace could endanger the stability of Afghanistan and much of the region, including Pakistan, which is fighting its own domestic Taliban insurgency.
“We have told the Pakistanis that they should support peace in Afghanistan not only for the sake of the Afghan people, but for their own sake,” Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai told The Associated Press in an interview today.
He said Afghanistan wants a close, broad, strategic relationship with Pakistan, “but one between two equal independent sovereign states, nothing less.”
Pakistan, Mosazai said, is constantly shifting its position. Islamabad should be “supporting the Afghan peace process in a more meaningful way and having an independent bilateral relationship that is not based on a delusional desire to control Afghanistan.”
So far, Afghanistan has been unsuccessful in getting militants to negotiate peace and needs Pakistan’s help. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has urged the Taliban to work out a political resolution to the war and has backed a plan for the Taliban to open an office in the Gulf state of Qatar.
Publicly, the Taliban have long refused to speak directly with Karzai or his government, which they view as a puppet of foreign powers.