Jirga proposes talks with Taliban

Consensus reached between Pakistan and Afghanistan to discuss peace with Taliban.

    The Taliban insist foreign troops have to leave before talks begin [File: GALLO/GETTY]

    The paper said the new approach was contained in a draft recommendation in a classified White House assessment of US strategy in Afghanistan.

    Active participation
    Talks would be led by the Afghan government, "but with the active participation of the US," it said on its website.

    Abdullah Abdullah, a former Afghan foreign minister, said: "We agreed that contacts should be established with the opposition in both countries, joint contacts through the jirgagai (mini-tribal council)."

    Abdullah Abdullah is the leader of the Afghan side.

    "We will sit, we will talk to them, they will listen to us and we will come to some sort of solution. Without dialogue we cannot have any sort of conclusion"

    Owais Ghani, governor of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province

    Asked whether overtures for tallks included the Taliban and other fighters, Owais Ghani, the leader of the Pakistani delegation, said: "Yes, it includes all those who are involved in this conflict situation."

    Ghani, who is the governor of Pakistan's violence-hit North West Frontier Province, said that the process of making contact with  the fighters "to some extent is already under way. We need now to speed it up".
    He added: "We will sit, we will talk to them, they will listen to us and we will come to some sort of solution. Without dialogue, we cannot have any sort of conclusion."
    Abdullah said that the mini-jirga had advised both governments "to deny sanctuary for the terrorists and militant elements which are a threat to all of us for both countries".
    The meeting of 50 officials and tribal elders from both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border was a follow-up to a larger "peace jirga" held in Kabul in August 2007.

    Kamal Hyder, reporting for Al Jazeera from Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, said it remains to be seen whether offers for talks would achieve the desired results.

    He said the military wing of the Taliban had rejected any options for negotiations unless the foreign military forces leave Afghanistan.

    'Big question'

    "So, indeed, there is a lot of ground to be covered between the Afghan and Pakistani government - and the big question as to what happens in the US when the elections do take place," he said.

    Violence has soared on both sides of the rugged frontier in recent months, with Washington and Kabul urging Islamabad to tackle the fighters' "safe havens" in Pakistan's tribal belt from which attacks in Afghanistan are launched.
    The US has stepped up missile attacks on fighters' targets in Pakistan in the past two months, killing dozens of people and further inflaming the already tense situation on the border.
    Despite US and Afghan opposition to peace deals that Pakistan struck with fighters in 2005 and 2006, the idea of engaging the Taliban in talks has gathered pace this year.
    Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said a week ago that the kingdom has been sponsoring talks between the government of Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and the Taliban.
    The joint declaration said there was an "urgent and imperative need of dialogue and negotiations with the opposition groups in both countries with a view to finding a peaceful settlement of the ongoing conflict, upholding the supremacy of the constitutions of both countries".
    The next meeting would be in Kabul in two or three months' time, the officials said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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