US envoy in Pakistan to discuss Afghan peace efforts
ISLAMABAD (AFP) – US envoy James Dobbins arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday for talks with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other senior officials on efforts to open peace talks with Afghan Taliban, Pakistan's foreign ministry said.
Dobbins, who flew in from Kabul, will meet Sharif and "brief us on developments relating to Afghanistan," foreign ministry spokesman, Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry told AFP.
Other Pakistani officials said the meetings of Dobbins, the US special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, will focus on "efforts to promote an Afghan-led reconciliation process".
The Afghan Taliban opened an office in Qatar last Tuesday in a step towards talks as the US-led NATO combat mission prepares to leave Afghanistan in 2014 despite a resilient Taliban insurgency 12 years after they were ousted following the 9/11 attacks.
But Afghan President Hamid Karzai reacted furiously to the office being styled as a Taliban government-in-exile under the rebels' white flag and using the formal name of the "Islamic Emirate Of Afghanistan" from their hardline 1996-2001 regime.
Kabul, which says it is committed to the peace process, insisted that the Qatar office be used for only direct negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
In Kabul on Monday, Dobbins said Washington had been "outraged" at the manner in which the Taliban opened the office, saying it was "inconsistent" with assurances the United States had given and received.
Some experts have suggested that Pakistan likely played a key role in persuading a reluctant Taliban to consider tentative peace talks with its American and Afghan government foes.
Western capitals believe that Pakistan can play a crucial role in helping to get the Taliban to the negotiating table as it was one of only three countries to recognise its 1996-2001 regime in Kabul.