Pakistan pulls out of Taliban peace talks

Islamabad's decision to back away from the talks is a huge blow to the Obama administration's postwar plans. 


White House officials had hoped to fast-track Taliban peace plan, saying a deal would be "absolutely essential to bringing the war to a responsible close," Doug Lute, the administration's top adviser for South Asia, said in January. 

"Unfortunately Pakistan today is changing the goalposts on its support for the peace process once again," Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai told reporters in Doha, Qatar, shortly after the initial round of talks between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Taliban fell through. 

Pakistan has already terminated efforts to fly Taliban representatives from the country to Doha to participate in the talks, according to reports by The Guardian.

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

Those demands seemingly undercut the growing tide of support in Pakistan for a peace deal, backed primarily by powerful Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani. 

"When optimism was prevailing about Pakistani attitudes, our human intelligence suggested that – on the ground – this optimism was not well-founded, and unfortunately we were proved right," a senior Afghan government official told the Guardian on Tuesday. 

Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan also seemed hesitant to buy in completely to the Afghan peace process. 

Negotiators for the terrorist group from both countries, and even those based in Qatar, refused to meet with Afghan president Hamid Karzai for the first round of talks in Doha. 

"Nobody from the Taliban side met with Karzai," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said after the Doha meeting. 

President Obama had expected the now-faltering peace talks a way to possibly end the deadly cross border raids into eastern Afghanistan by militants based in Pakistan. 

The White House sees the peace plan, and Islamabad's critical role in formulating that plan, as a way to stifle or completely eliminate that cross border threat, Lute said earlier this year. 

Washington's expectations for the talks had been bolstered shortly after Karzai's visit to the White House in January. 

During one-on-one talks with Obama, Karzai laid out "very detailed, five-phase approach" to getting the Taliban to the negotiation table, noting Karzai had been working closely with Pakistan on the terms of the deal, according to the White House. 

But with Karzai's term set to end by next April and the final U.S. combat troops pulling out from the country that same month, time is running out for Kabul to get a peace deal done. 

"It is conceivable that between 12 and 18 months from now the world could look different from a Taliban perspective," a Western diplomat told the Guardian.