Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai has acknowledged that “unofficial” talks with the Taliban have been going on amid reports that members of the newly created Afghan Peace Council had last week held discussions in Kabul with the Taliban and a Pakistani official delegation.
“We have been talking to the Taliban as countryman to countryman,” Mr. Karzai told CNN in an interview. “Not as a regular official contact with the Taliban with a fixed address, but rather unofficial personal contacts have been going on for quite some time.”
Mr. Karzai’s remarks coincided with a report on the Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) website that said Taliban representatives, Afghan officials, and a Pakistani government delegation had on October 6 met in Serena Hotel, a five-star facility in Kabul. The report added that former Pakistani Foreign Minister Aftab Ahmad Sherpau led the delegation from Islamabad for the talks. The Taliban delegates included Maulvi Muttawakil, who was the Foreign Minister during the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, as well as Abdul Hakim Mujahid, the group’s contact person with the United Nations.
Members of the Afghan Peace Council (APC), a 69-member body established by the Karzai government to hold talks with the Taliban participated in discussions. However, they did not represent the APC, which was formally launched only on October 7. On Sunday,
Afghanistan's former President, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was chosen as the leader of the APC.
The October 6 talks aimed to clear the ground for detailed negotiations, the report said. It quoted Abdul Hamid Mubarez, an APC member, who heads a non-governmental group called the Afghan Strategic Center, as saying that the purpose of the talks was to develop a mechanism for more specific discussions with Taliban leaders in order to end the Afghanistan war. Mr. Mubarez said that Pakistan was playing a central role in these talks.
The Washington Post had earlier reported that the Afghan government had begun backchannel discussions with the Taliban. The Quetta based Shoura council, as well as Mullah Omar, the Taliban head, had approved the dialogue. However, the Haqqani group, a violent extremist network did not participate in these talks.
There have been earlier attempts to negotiate the end the Afghan war, but talks, held in Saudi Arabia had proved inconclusive last year.