Ex-UN official says Pakistan disrupted talks with Taliban

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The United Nations' former top official in Afghanistan has accused Pakistan of impeding negotiations between the Taliban and Western nations.

The official, Kai Eide, said that the arrests of high-ranking Taliban officials by Pakistan had led to the disruption of talks between the Taliban and the United Nations in Dubai. According to Eide, the two parties had conducted “talks about talks,” but they had broken down completely after Pakistan's arrests. In an interview with the BBC, he said that "the Pakistanis did not play the role that they should have played." Pakistan's actions have prompted some speculation that the country was opposed to a peace deal between Western nations and the Taliban, or wanted to take a greater part in the talks. Pakistan, however, has denied the arrests were intended to disrupt talks between the UN and the Taliban.

Eide said that the talks between both sides had begun around a year ago, and had continued until several weeks ago, with a pause for the Afghan elections. While other avenues for communication exist, including via the Afghan government, Eide said that it would take at least several weeks for such talks to resume after the disruption.

Peace talks between the two sides are widely seen as necessary to gain peace with the Taliban, although the approaches taken by European countries and the United States are almost opposite. The US announced a significant military buildup in Afghanistan last fall, and is trying to weaken the Taliban military before engaging in talks. Western European countries are pushing for more immediate negotiations, and officials such as David Miliband, British foreign secretary, are focusing on engaging all but the most militant members of the Taliban.