Taliban talks likely on Karzai agenda in Pakistan | world | Hindustan Times
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Taliban talks likely on Karzai agenda in Pakistan

world Updated: Mar 10, 2010 12:24 IST

What role Pakistan plays in any peace effort aimed at the Taliban is likely to rank high on the agenda during Afghan President Hamid Karzai's visit to Islamabad on Wednesday.

Pakistan has made it clear it wants a part in so-called "reconciliation" efforts between the Taliban and the Afghan government, but many Afghans resent Pakistani involvement in their affairs and question its true motives.

Still, Pakistan's history of links to the Afghan Taliban, a group it supported when it controlled Afghanistan, could make Islamabad an indispensable player.

In recent weeks, Pakistan also has reportedly arrested several Afghan Taliban leaders who were hiding on its soil. The military has confirmed that those held include Afghan Taliban No. 2 Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

What's still unclear is exactly why the arrests were made, with some analysts speculating Pakistan is trying to guarantee itself a seat at the negotiating table.

Pakistan has long tried to influence Kabul so that it can have an ally in the region and strengthen its position concerning its longtime rival, India.

New Delhi, too, is trying to curry favor with the Afghans.

Karzai will stay through Thursday and meet with top Pakistani officials including President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, according to the Pakistani Foreign Ministry. It is the Afghan leader's first trip to Pakistan since he was re-elected in a vote marred by fraud.

"President Karzai's visit will contribute towards further strengthening brotherly ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan and in deepening and broadening multifaceted cooperation," the ministry's press release said.

The US has sent thousands more troops to Afghanistan and is waging offensives in the country's south, the Taliban's primary stronghold.

Officials say the US is not engaged in any direct peace talks with the Islamist militia, but it has signaled support for the Afghan government's efforts.

Getting key Taliban leaders to agree to talks may be the toughest test.

A three-day conference in Kabul starting April 29 is expected to lay out a way to pursue the peace effort and a "reintegration" program aimed at bringing lower-level Taliban fighters back into the broader Afghan society.