KABUL/ISLAMABAD: Afghan officials have held secret talks with the Taliban’s former second in command who is in detention in Pakistan in a move which could help rekindle stalled peace talks with the insurgents, according to senior officials from both countries.
Afghan officials have often seen Pakistan as a reluctant partner in attempts to broker talks with the Taliban but its decision to grant access to Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar may signal Islamabad’s willingness to play a more active role.
Rangin Spanta, the national security adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and an architect of peace-building efforts, said an Afghan delegation had met Baradar in Pakistan two months ago.
Baradar has been in detention since he was captured in a joint operation by the CIA and Pakistani intelligence agents in the Pakistani city of Karachi in 2010.
“We have met Mullah Baradar,” Spanta told Reuters in Kabul. “Our delegation has spoken to him to know his view on peace talks.”
Afghan officials have publicly been demanding access to Baradar, the Taliban’s top military commander until he was captured, but Spanta’s revelation shows preliminary contact has already been made.
Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s interior minister, also said that Pakistan had granted Afghan officials access to Baradar. “They had access at the required and appropriate level,” Malik told Reuters.
“We are fully cooperating with Afghanistan and whatever they are asking for the peace process, for developing peace in Afghanistan. We are giving every kind of help.”
Pakistan is seen as crucial to stability in Afghanistan as most foreign combat troops look to leave the country in 2014, given close political and economic ties and because militant sanctuaries straddle the mountainous border.
Who is the coveted ultra?
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was the main day-to-day commander responsible for leading the Taliban campaign against the United States and NATO troops, plotting suicide bombings and other attacks.
He was the right-hand man to reclusive Taliban leader Mullah
Mohammed Omar, who gave him the nickname Baradar (brother), providing him with great influence and prestige in Taliban circles.