Afghan president keen on peace talks with Taliban

Afghan president keen on peace talks with Taliban

Afghan president keen on peace talks with Taliban

Harsh winter conditions have killed 40 Afghan kids in the past month. Afghanistan, a landlocked and mountainous country, has suffered its coldest winter in 15 years. AP photo

The Afghan president met Feb. 18 with a Pakistani cleric linked to Taliban insurgents, a meeting that marked the first public contact between an Afghan official and members of the Afghan Taliban.

The meeting between President Hamid Karzai and the cleric was held in Islamabad said the cleric and Afghan officials, and shows how far the Afghan president is willing to go to open contact with the insurgent leaders.

Speaking to the Associated Press, the cleric, Maulana Samiul Haq, said Karzai asked for his help in bringing the militant movement’s leadership into peace negotiations and to help establish contacts with the Taliban leadership. 

‘Talks are encouraging’

Haq said he told Karzai that he would help in the “noble cause” as long as it was clear what was wanted from the Taliban. Haq runs a large seminary where many of the insurgent leaders once studied and reportedly still provides recruits for the Taliban fighting in Afghanistan. The Taliban leaders are widely believed to be based in Pakistan with some level of protection by the country’s security forces. 

Karzai’s spokesman also said talks between Karzai and Pakistani leaders in Islamabad were encouraging. Afghanistan is optimistic that regional power Pakistan will help the Kabul government advance a reconciliation process with the Taliban, Aimal Faizi said. “We noticed a big change among the Pakistanis.

The atmosphere is much better,” Faizi told Reuters in Islamabad. “We are more optimistic than before that they will support us.” Faizi said Karzai made several demands when he met top Pakistani officials, but he would not list them.