With prospects for peace talks at a new low, the Afghan government is attempting to resuscitate negotiations with a seemingly contradictory approach: publicly bashing the Pakistanis for supporting the Taliban while at the same time asking for their help.
In a series of recent speeches and interviews, President Hamid Karzai has sought to balance inflammatory remarks that Pakistan is fighting a proxy war in Afghanistan with conciliatory appeals for greater cooperation among neighbors.
Last week, for example, Karzai signed a strategic partnership agreement with India, Pakistan’s arch-rival, but on the same trip he called Pakistan a “twin brother” and the key to long-term peace. After years of failed efforts to talk directly with the Taliban, Karzai has decided he must talk through Pakistan to make progress.
“When President Karzai says we want to talk to Pakistan, it doesn’t mean we are at war with Pakistan,” Mohammed Umer Daudzai, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, said in an interview. “It means all the other contacts didn’t work. We want to go through Pakistan for any dialogue with the Taliban.”
Afghanistan’s new position in some ways mirrors the Obama administration’s own dilemma with Pakistan. Many U.S. officials are convinced that Pakistan’s intelligence agency is helping insurgents fight in Afghanistan, but the Americans want to avoid ruining what cooperation remains.
But Pakistan’s firm denials that it is supporting the Taliban and its anger at the Afghan and U.S. accusations suggest it might have little inclination to change course.
Tension rose again Saturday when Afghan officials accused Pakistan of launching rockets over the border into Konar province. Janan Musazai, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry, said the government had summoned Pakistan’s ambassador in Kabul for an explanation.
The governor of Konar, Fazilullah Wahedi, said 30 rockets, fired from a Pakistani military base in Dir, landed in two districts of the province and wounded four people. Pakistani officials denied such a shelling took place. In the past, Pakistan has said some firing at insurgents has strayed across the border.
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