Accessibility links

Breaking News

Kabul Says Pakistan Tasked With Bringing 10 Taliban To Peace Talks

Ahmad Chaudhry, head of Pakistani delegations, (L) talks with Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani before a meeting in Kabul on February 23.

A senior Afghan official says Pakistan has been tasked with bringing a group of 10 influential Taliban representatives to Islamabad during the first week of March to take part in direct talks with the Afghan government.

The Afghan official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not specify which Taliban figures Pakistan would try to contact.

But he said the 10 were identified by the government in Kabul as the most influential people among Taliban factions, including the Haqqani network.

The task was given to Pakistan by four countries trying to arrange direct peace talks from the so-called Quadrilateral Coordination Group -- which includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the United States.

That group announced on February 23 that it expects direct talks to start in Islamabad during the first week of March.

But the spokesman for the Afghan Taliban's political office in Qatar told RFE/RL later on the same day that is was "unaware of plans for talks" and that it had not changed its preconditions for joining the peace process.

Those preconditions include the withdrawal of all foreign troops in the U.S.-led coalition from Afghanistan, recognition of their office, removal of the Taliban from UN terrorist blacklists, and the release of Taliban inmates from prisons.

Some Taliban delegates met in Islamabad during the summer of 2015 with Afghan officials for an initial round of peace talks.

But the fledgling peace process was derailed by the revelation that the Taliban's founder and spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had been dead for more than two years.

A power struggle between rival Taliban factions then emerged with rival field commanders expressing loyalty to different leaders.

The Taliban's Qatar office says it is the only "authorized and responsible entity" that can represent Afghanistan's Taliban at peace talks.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and Tolo-TV