US, Pakistan eye transition plan for Taliban

Members of the Safe Passage Working Group met for the first time in Islamabad on Wednesday to begin laying the groundwork to get Taliban officials to the negotiating table safely. 


Officials from the three countries agreed to form the group back in April, according to The Associated Press. 

Wednesday's meeting was focused on selecting which Taliban members should be brought to the eventual peace talks, and how to guarantee their safety to and from those negotiations, the AP reports. 

The meeting also focused on logistical issues, such as securing travel visas for Taliban leaders so they can participate in the trilateral talks, a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity told the AP. 

Wednesday's planning session and eventual peace talks come after months of secret negotiations between the United States and the Taliban regarding a possible peace deal to end the Afghan war. 

Some of the safety and logistical measures being considered by the working group are the same ones used by U.S. officials to transport Taliban representatives to those unofficial talks in Qatar and elsewhere in the region. 

Islamabad's involvement in the group's planning process will be key to ensuring whether the subsequent peace talks succeed. 

Many of the Taliban's senior leadership, including the group's leader, Mullah Omar, are reportedly hiding in locations along the volatile border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

Last March, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed when American special operations forces raided his compound in deep inside Pakistani territory. 

U.S.-Pakistani relations have been tense since then, but Islamabad's decision to re-open critical supply routes in Pakistan to U.S. and coalition forces earlier this year was a sign those relations are beginning to thaw. 

Nearly 32,000 America soldiers are preparing to withdraw from Afghanistan this summer. The remaining 68,000 U.S. troops in the country are expected to pull out completely within the next two years.