by Muhammad Tahir
ISLAMABAD, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- Top Afghan, Pakistani and U.S. diplomats have concluded talks in Pakistan to explore options to encourage Taliban insurgents to join the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan as the American forces have started phased withdrawal, which will be followed by other NATO allies.
Heads of the Afghan and U.S. delegates in the trilateral Core Group's meeting on Tuesday underlined the need of Pakistan's role in the Afghan reconciliation process as they strongly believe that Islamabad has deep influence on Afghan Taliban and the country is a key player to bring the insurgents to the negotiation table.
U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman, who led the U.S. delegation in the trilateral talks, said on Wednesday that there could be no reconciliation or compromise possible in Afghanistan without the involvement of Pakistan.
During his meeting with the Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Grossman said Pakistan's role was very pivotal for stabilizing the security situation in Afghanistan. Ambassador Grossman offered similar comments late Tuesday night when speaking to reporters along with the heads of Afghan and Pakistani sides in the talks.
On his part, the Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin said the reconciliation process in Afghanistan depends on the cooperation in which Pakistan can extend in engaging the Taliban leadership with a view to bringing them over to the peace process. He said Afghanistan is identifying lower and mid-level Taliban leaders who can contribute to peace and reconciliation.
"We want Pakistan to assist in bringing top leadership of Taliban into the process," he said, adding that he has come to Islamabad with a message of urgency for cooperation in making the peace process a success.
Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir promised his country 's full support to all inclusive broad-based process of reconciliation that is underway in Afghanistan.
The trilateral talks on Afghan reconciliation were first initiated earlier this year and the latest round of Islamabad's meeting was the fourth to review the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, but there has been little progress as the Taliban have not yet shown willingness to talk.
The Taliban on Tuesday rejected a call for truce in the holy Muslim month of fasting. Religious scholars and UN office in Kabul had called on all sides to respect the month of Ramadan. Taliban on its website rejected the appeal and said its fighters would step up attacks as "Ramadan is the month of victories".
Taliban insurgents have stepped up attacks as the foreign forces last month started handing over security responsibilities to Afghan forces and have completed the process so far in five areas, four of them were relatively peaceful. As the foreign forces started handing over the security responsibility to local forces Taliban carried out brazen attacks and also claimed responsibility for the murder of the brother of President Karzai, who was killed by his guard last month in his Kandahar house.
The trilateral meeting in Islamabad was important in the wake of the transfer of security responsibility to Afghan forces and the Afghan government. The U.S. now wants Pakistan to double its efforts to reconcile the Taliban on which it has influence and Islamabad can bring them to the negotiation table, according to Afghan experts.
Spokesman for the Afghan Foreign Ministry Janan Musazai told Xinhua in Islamabad on Wednesday that Afghanistan and Pakistan have reached an understanding on Islamabad's possible role in Afghan reconciliation and said now time is ripe for practical steps. "We look towards Pakistan's urgent role to achieve the goal of reconciliation," said Musazai, who was a member of the Afghan delegation to the trilateral meeting.
Statements about the key role of Pakistan from the U.S. special regional envoy and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister show that now all eyes for a possible reconciliation process in the war- shattered country are on Pakistan and commitment to the peace process by Pakistani top diplomat in the trilateral meeting has raised hopes for the peace process in the coming months.