A key gathering opened on Monday in Islamabad in which four major countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States – hope to lay the road-map to peace for the war-shattered Afghan nation, Associated Press reports. Afghan forces are struggling to man the front lines against a resurgent Taliban, in part because of untold numbers of “ghost” troops who are paid salaries but only exist on paper, AP adds (HT: FPI).
Only intensified pressure on Pakistan will make it act against Islamist terror networks and co-operate on the Afghan peace process, say two former US diplomats.
“At this juncture, sustained and intensified pressure on Pakistan offers the only viable path to advancing the reconciliation process in a way that does not turn Afghanistan into a launching pad for terrorism and extremism,” according to Zalmay Khalilzad, a former US Ambassador to the UN, Afghanistan and Iraq, and James Dobbins, the Obama Administration’s Special US Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“Continued US pressure is needed to induce Pakistani cooperation in reducing the violence,” they wrote in a Newsweek op-ed.
“Congress withheld nearly a third of the military assistance allocated to Pakistan for 2015 due to Islamabad’s failure to take meaningful action against the Haqqani network. An even larger proportion of the assistance should be conditioned in the coming year on Islamabad closing down the Haqqani network and Taliban military in the country,” said Dobbins and Khalilzad (right), a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy.
Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the leader of the Taliban, is likely to remain in hiding when U.S., Afghan, Pakistani and Chinese officials meet in Islamabad to lay the groundwork for future talks. Nonetheless, his shadow will hang over the proceedings, The Washington Post reports.
The Taliban is waging an unusually aggressive campaign of violence in Afghanistan this winter, unleashing deadly bombings in the capital, threatening to overrun a strategic southern province, and attacking a foreign consulate, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty adds.