Taliban and Pakistan in peace talks

Taliban and Pakistan in peace talks

Taliban and Pakistan in peace talks

Afghan soldiers (R) with a US soldier converse with students in this file photo. AFP Photo

Pakistan’s Taliban movement, a major security threat to the country, is holding exploratory peace talks with the U.S.-backed government, a senior Taliban commander and mediators said yesterday.

 The discussions are focused on the South Waziristan region on the Afghan border and could be expanded to try to reach a comprehensive deal.

 The Taliban, who are close to al-Qaeda, made several demands, including the release of prisoners, said the commander.

 An ethnic Pashtun tribal mediator described the talks as “very difficult”. The United States, the source of billions of dollars of aid vital for Pakistan’s military and feeble economy, may not look kindly on peace talks with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which it has labeled a terrorist group.

 Past peace pacts with the TTP have failed to bring stability, and merely gave the umbrella group time and space to consolidate, launch fresh attacks and impose their austere version of Islam on segments of the population.

 “Yes, we have been holding talks but this is just an initial phase. We will see if there is a breakthrough,” said the senior Taliban commander, who asked not to be identified. The TTP, which is allied with the Afghan Taliban movement fighting U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan, is entrenched in the unruly areas along the porous border. Pakistan has come under pressure to eradicate militancy since U.S. special forces in May killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani town, where he had apparently been living for years. Pakistan’s government and military have said they had no idea bin Laden was in Pakistan and have yet to explain the intelligence gap. The TTP was formed in 2007 and is blamed for many of the suicide bombings across nuclear-armed Pakistan. The TTP has shown an interest in expanding its range under the banner of al-Qaeda.

Compiled from Reuters and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.