ISLAMABAD -- Afghanistan and Pakistan are moving ahead quickly with a new Afghan government plan that envisions peace with the Taliban by 2015, holding a summit in Turkey and working with the United States and Britain on streamlining the U.N. terrorist blacklisting system so that Afghan insurgents can be given safe passage for direct negotiations with Kabul.
Negotiations on the blacklisting procedures, which have been taking place in New York ahead of a vote to renew the U.N. system before it expires next week, could effectively give legal space and international legitimacy to the Taliban’s political wing.
“We need a ban on insurgents, not the Taliban per se,” said a diplomat in Islamabad familiar with the negotiations, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “We need something more helpful, more flexible, tweak the language and allow the Taliban to name negotiators who can travel.”
The new Afghan government peace plan, which McClatchy revealed over the weekend, calls for Pakistan to replace the United States in arranging direct talks between the Afghan government and leaders of the Taliban-led insurgency. Those talks, which would take place most likely in Saudi Arabia, would happen in the second half of next year, after the Taliban and the Afghan government have agreed to a cease-fire.
Under the deal, the insurgents would have to renounce violence, cut ties to al Qaida and “respect” Afghanistan’s constitution. In return, they would be given posts at all levels of government, a move that effectively would cede to them political and economic control of their strongholds in eastern and southern Afghanistan.
Among other provisions, the first step of the five-step blueprint calls for Afghanistan and Pakistan to advance the initiative in a meeting in Turkey. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, met for a second day in Ankara on Wednesday. More meetings are to be held next year in the United States and Britain, the blueprint says.
“The environment of dialogue is better than it has been. At the same time, we are seeing unfortunate incidents of terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Karzai declared.
Karzai was apparently referring to an assassination attempt last week against Asadullah Khalid, the director of Afghanistan’s intelligence service, who was wounded by a suicide bomber. Karzai charged that the attack was plotted in Pakistan but claimed the Taliban weren’t involved.
“They (terrorists) don’t want us, the governments, to get together and be able to lead the nations to peace,” Zardari said.
The “Peace Process Roadmap to 2015” also calls for the two governments to work with the United States on the terms and conditions for removing from a U.N. sanctions list “Taliban leaders willing to engage in peace talks” so they could have “safe passage” for negotiations.
The sanctions include a travel ban and an asset freeze and apply to separate U.N. lists for al Qaida and the Taliban.
Diplomats at the United Nations said that negotiations have been underway on streamlining procedures involving the Taliban list, which was separated from the al Qaida list last year.
An individual only can be removed by a consensus decision of all 15 members of the U.N. Security Council. Moscow occasionally has used that provision to resist Kabul’s de-listing requests, trying to force an extension of U.N. sanctions to Islamists fighting for independence in Russia’s Republic of Chechnya, said a former Afghan official familiar with the issue. He requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the Afghan government.