A series of major political developments on the Afghan front this month all point toward new cooperative efforts by Pakistan, Afghanistan and the U.S. to bring the Taliban leadership into the negotiation process. The renewed push for a negotiated settlement to the conflict comes against the backdrop of the looming withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2014. Though major questions remain as to whether the effort will bear fruit, it represents what many fear is the last chance to avert a bloody fight for control of Kabul once foreign troops have left the country.
On Nov. 14, during the three-day visit to Islamabad of the Afghan High Peace Council, Pakistan announced that it would release 13 members of the Taliban, including several senior figures. Pakistan has been periodically arresting Taliban commanders since 2009, but Islamabad ramped up the detentions in 2010, in response to having been excluded from exploratory talks between the U.S. and the Taliban. At the time, Pakistani security forces detained seven major Taliban leaders, including the group’s second-in-command, Mullah Baradar. ...
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