Levin: Pakistan more 'cooperative' on Taliban peace talks

Islamabad's consideration to release a handful of Taliban prisoners, "as a way of stimulating [them] to become involved politically" in the process is a clear sign of Pakistan's renewed commitment, Levin told reporters during a breakfast in Washington. 

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In April, Pakistan walked away from Afghan-led peace talks with the Taliban over regional security issues with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government. 

Pakistan's demand that Kabul cut all ties with India, Pakistan's long-time foe, as well as immediately sign a military cooperation pact with Pakistan was too much to ask, Afghan officials said at the time. 

But a recent goodwill trip by Karzai to Pakistan in August may have forced both countries to put their differences aside and push toward a viable Taliban peace deal. 

"We hope with [the peace plan] on top of our agenda we can move forward in bringing stability and peace to both countries," Karzai told reporters during a joint press conference with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the time. 

The White House and Pentagon have said a Taliban peace plan with the Taliban is critical to Afghan stability, ahead of the 2014 withdrawal deadline for all U.S. and coalition forces from the country. 

"That really is the focus of effort over the next 18 months. That's why we need to start now — especially with the Afghan security forces — to talk about 2018, not 2014," Gen. Joseph Dunford, head of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said in June. 

That same month, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the White House's plan to reach a peace deal with the Taliban was "worth the risk." 

“We've always supported a peaceful resolution to the end of the bloodshed in the war in Afghanistan," Hagel said in a speech at the University of Nebraska. "I think it's worth the risk."

There are currently 66,000 American troops in Afghanistan. The first 34,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan are slated to return home this spring. 

The remaining 32,000 American forces will rotate stateside after the Afghan presidential elections in April 2014, ending the U.S. war in the country. 

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