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Raheel discussed Afghanistan with US officials

15 September, 2015

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ISLAMABAD: Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif discussed on Monday the stalled Afghan reconciliation process with senior US officials.

The issue was deliberated upon during Gen Sharif’s meeting with top US and Nato commander in Afghanistan General John Campbell and the acting American Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Jarrett Blanc.

Gen Campbell, who is the commander of the Resolute Support Mission coalition, enjoys strong influence in the Afghan military establishment and according to a recent New York Times report Afghans describe him as their defence minister.

“During the meeting, matters of mutual interest and regional security with particular emphasis on coordination along Pak-Afghan border and reconciliation process in Afghanistan were discussed,” the ISPR said about the meeting.

The meeting coincided with intensification of offensives by both Afghan government forces and militants. It happened on a day when the Taliban staged a major jailbreak in central Afghanistan’s Ghazni province freeing over 350 inmates, including some militant leaders.

Prospects for resumption of the reconciliation process, despite Pakistan’s deep desire, remain grim. The Afghan reconciliation process that began in Pakistan in July got suspended weeks later because of the disclosure about the death of Taliban chief Mullah Omar. The subsequent surge in violence in Afghanistan renewed acrimony between Kabul and Islamabad and made the resumption of the process even more uncertain. Afghan leaders minced no words in expressing their aversion to a Pakistani facilitated process.

Diplomatic efforts by the United States late last month helped in resuming contacts between the two sides and Adviser to PM on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz during a visit to Kabul for attending a regional conference met President Ashraf Ghani and other leaders, where he again floated the idea of revival of peace talks with Taliban.

Gen Sharif used his Defence Day speech to revitalise the goodwill generated during his previous contacts with Afghan leadership as he expressed concern over the “aggravating security situation” and hoped that forces inimical to reconciliation would remain unsuccessful.

The uncertainty plaguing Taliban succession is further making the situation complicated.

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