KABUL — Afghan negotiators will soon travel to Pakistan to meet with former Taliban commander Abdul Ghani Baradar, Afghan officials said Wednesday, a visit they hope will kick-start stalled peace talks between the country’s government and insurgent leaders.
At a trilateral summit in London, Afghan, British and Pakistani officials “agreed that a delegation of the Afghan High Peace Council will soon visit Pakistan to meet Mullah Baradar,” according to a statement from the Afghan government.
Baradar, once the deputy to Taliban leader Mohammad Omar, was released from a Pakistani prison in September in what was described as an effort to strengthen the prospects of political reconciliation in Afghanistan. But since his release, Baradar has remained inaccessible to Afghan officials, raising questions about the Pakistani government’s commitment to facilitating peace talks.
“He has remained under strict supervision” by the Pakistani government, said Aimal Faizi, Karzai’s spokesman.
Wednesday’s announcement offers a rare reason for optimism four months after the possibility of talks between Afghan and Taliban negotiators collapsed on the eve of a scheduled meeting in Doha, Qatar. The prospects for that meeting quickly soured after the Taliban refused to remove a flag outside its office emblazoned with the words “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.”
U.S. and Afghan officials have long said that the war here will end only once a deal is reached between the government and insurgents. But the Taliban has refused to hold negotiations with Karzai’s government, which it deems incompetent and powerless.
For their part, Afghan officials say a high-level intermediary, such as Baradar, could offer a breakthrough. The Afghan representatives scheduled to meet with him are members of the country’s High Peace Council, its official negotiating body. The date of the meeting has not been announced.