In Return for Restraining India, Pak Offers Meddling between US and Taliban

In return for concessions over Islamabad’s concerns with India, Pakistani military has offered to act as mediator between the US and the Taliban, a TV channel reported.

In an interview with a news channel, Pakistan military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas said that army is not only in touch with Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar but can even bring the two sides, the US and the Taliban commanders, to a negotiating table.

According to the channel, the admission of ongoing communication links with Taliban forces who are using refuge in Pakistan to launch military strike against US troops in neighbouring Afghanistan is a part of new diplomatic strategy to help the Obama administration find an end the long running conflict.

Abbas, nevertheless, clarified in the interview that in exchange for any role as a mediator, Pakistan wants concessions from Washington over Islamabad’s concerns with longtime rival India.

The channel reported that senior US officials had informed it that the Obama administration is willing both to talk to top Taliban leaders and to raise some of Pakistan’s concerns with India.

With NATO’s Afghan force commanders conceding the military fight against the Taliban in key areas of Afghanistan is at a “stalemate” and that a recent influx of American combat troops is hoped to break the deadlock, the consensus among military and diplomatic figures in the region is that the US cannot win the war in Afghanistan militarily.

Most believe a resolution to the conflict will ultimately be a political, and economic, one rather than a military victory that will necessitate negotiations with the Taliban, the channel said.

Such a resolution will have to be struck with the involvement of Pakistan, India, Iran and possibly Saudi Arabia, as well as NATO and the US, the channel said.

And with the Pakistan military, with its intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, now going public with its offer to act as broker to help initiate talks, this could be the first opportunity for a breakthrough in ending the Afghan war that began with the US invasion in 2001, it said.

Abbas said that after its “very intense relationship” with militants during the fighters’ alliance with the US during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the Pakistan military is now still in contact with Taliban commanders such as Mullah Omar, Jalalladin Haqqani, Mullah Nazir and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of the militant Hizb-e-Islami group.

“That’s right, the ISI was in the forefront of the whole struggle against the Soviets. Now, maintaining the contacts with the organisations (like Mullah Omar’s Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar) doesn’t mean that that state policy is (to be) providing them physical support or the funding or training,” Abbas said.

After the 9/11 attacks Pakistani policy to support the groups did a “U-turn”, he said.

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