The South Asia Channel

Afghan officials will travel to Pakistan to meet with former Taliban senior commander

Breakthrough in London After Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the presidential palace announced on Wednesday that senior Afghan officials will travel to Pakistan "in the near future" to meet with former Taliban senior commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (AFP, Pajhwok, Reuters, VOA).  Cameron is hosting the two ...

Photo by Richard Pohle - Pool/Getty Images
Photo by Richard Pohle - Pool/Getty Images

Breakthrough in London

After Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the presidential palace announced on Wednesday that senior Afghan officials will travel to Pakistan "in the near future" to meet with former Taliban senior commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (AFPPajhwokReutersVOA).  Cameron is hosting the two leaders in an effort to re-start the stalled Afghan peace talks and the whereabouts of Baradar were expected to play a significant role in the discussion (RFE/RL).  Baradar was the Taliban’s deputy leader until he was arrested in Pakistan in 2010.  While Pakistani authorities say they released Baradar last month, his whereabouts remain unknown and Afghan officials believe he is still under Pakistan’s close supervision.

Speaking ahead of that meeting on Tuesday, Sharif urged the Afghan Taliban to take part in the political reconciliation process and speak with Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (VOA).  Sharif added that the talks should "promote unity," and said stability would only return to Afghanistan when everyone was involved in the peace process.  He also reiterated his belief that Pakistan "should play every possible role" to help achieve stability in the region. 

Surprise visit 

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott made an unexpected visit to Afghanistan on Tuesday to mark the end of the country’s involvement in the war (APRFE/RL).  Speaking at the Australian Defence Forces headquarters at the Tarin Kowt base in Uruzgan province, Abbott said the country’s efforts were ending, "not with victory, not with defeat, but with, we hope, an Afghanistan that is better for our presence here" (Guardian).  He also confirmed that most of Australia’s 1,000-plus soldiers will be leaving Afghanistan before the end of the year. Australia is the largest provider of troops outside of NATO and over 40 Australian soldiers have been killed during the last 12 years.

Eyewitness account

Rafiq Rehman, a Pakistani schoolteacher, and two of his children traveled 6,000 miles from their village in North Waziristan to brief U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday and share their stories as survivors of an alleged U.S. drone strike that killed Rehman’s mother last October (AJAMDawnRFE/RLVOA).  The briefing, the first of its kind, was hosted by Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) and attended by just five representatives – all Democrats.  Grayson, who dismissed the seemingly low attendance, said the briefing was a promising start, but doubted that a full committee hearing would be called any time soon. 

Most of the reports about the briefing noted the generosity with which the family spoke.  Rehman admitted that he was initially angry due to the "unjust" nature of the strike, but added that "this isn’t the American people; it’s their government.  It’s politics" (AP).  He also blamed the Pakistani government for its private approval of the strikes, a sentiment echoed by Grayson who said the strikes "could end tomorrow" if the Pakistani government stopped facilitating them (DawnET).  The congressman’s claims, however, contradict the Pakistani stance that all of these strikes occur without its approval. 

In a separate press conference on Tuesday, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party threatened to close off NATO supply routes to Afghanistan if the Pakistani government failed to announce a schedule of talks with the Pakistani Taliban by November 7 (ET).  The party, which has long advocated for peace talks with the militant group, described the move as a way to pressure the international alliance to compel the United States to halt its drone program – one of the Taliban’s main preconditions for reconciliation talks with the government. According to PTI Deputy Secretary General Imran Ismail, Imran Khan, the party’s leader, will deliver his ultimatum at a party meeting on Saturday, November 2. 

Pakistan Idol

Auditions began in Karachi on Tuesday for "Pakistan Idol," the latest in-country version of the popular American talent show that may provoke controversy in a country where an increasingly vocal and violent minority considers singing and dancing a violation of Islam (WSJ).  The contestant hopefuls, between 15 and 30 years-old, arrived at the city’s Beach Luxury Hotel and immediately began sizing up the competition and wondering what song to sing.  Nearly 50,000 people attended auditions that were held across the country and Saad Bin Mujeeb, GeoTV’s direct of content and productions who is overseeing the show’s production, is hoping that "Idol" will showcase the country’s rich musical heritage.

Emily Schneider is a program associate in the International Security Program at New America. She is also an assistant editor of the South Asia channel. @emilydsch
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