KABUL — The Afghan government is expected to resume face-to-face talks with Taliban leaders next week in Pakistan, reviving a peace process that stalled this past summer after it was revealed that the insurgent group’s leader had been dead for years.
After meeting here in Kabul on Tuesday, U.S. diplomats and representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan and China issued a joint statement inviting “all Taliban and other groups” to travel to Islamabad to participate in the talks.
Representatives of the four countries began meeting last month to explore ways to end a 14-year insurgency that Brown University’s Watson Center says has killed more than 90,000 Afghans.
In July, an initial round of talks quickly broke down after it was confirmed that Mohammad Omar, the Taliban’s leader, was dead and could not have authorized the meeting.
Some Taliban commanders installed Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, Omar’s longtime senior aide, as his successor. But the insurgent group is increasingly fractured, and analysts say it is impossible to tell how much power Mansour really wields.
On Tuesday, it remained unclear which factions of the Taliban will participate in next week’s talks. But the meeting in July included a number of then-leaders of the insurgency, including a representative of the Haqqani network, a closely allied group that is responsible for some of the bloodiest attacks against coalition forces here.
Other factions within the broader insurgency have insisted that they have no plans to negotiate with the Afghan government. Taliban militants and Afghan security forces continue to battle each other in at least half a dozen provinces.
But in recent weeks, Pakistan has been stepping up back-
channel negotiations with Taliban representatives.
Two weeks ago, Pakistan’s Express-News reported that a delegation from the Taliban’s political office in Doha, Qatar, had traveled to Islamabad this month. On Monday, Pakistan’s powerful army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, traveled to Doha to brief Qatari military and political leaders on the likely resumption of the talks.
Even if talks resume as scheduled next week, however, they are expected to drag on for months.
“One should not attach high hopes for a possible outcome soon,” said Mahmood Shah, an Islamabad-based security expert. “The Afghan Taliban is not weak . . . so these issues will have to be resolved step by step.”
Last month, a senior Taliban representative set a list of preconditions for a negotiated settlement, including the withdrawal of all U.S. troops, the end of U.N. sanctions, the creation of an “Islamic emirate” and the release of Taliban inmates from Afghan prisons.
But the statement also suggested that the Taliban, or at least its Doha-based political leadership, may be prepared to soften its views on some issues.
“The Islamic Emirate is committed to civil activities; to the freedom of speech; and to the women’s rights in the light of Islamic rules, national interests and values,” it said.
Haq Nawaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan, contributed to this report.