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New US approach to Afghanistan insurgency: Vindication for Pakistan?

Afghanistan and the US are showing signs of a new approach to insurgents in Afghanistan. The approach may ultimately allow Pakistan more influence in Afghanistan as the US prepares to leave next year.

By Issam AhmedCorrespondent / November 3, 2010

A US soldier walks during a patrol, on Nov. 3, in Sangin, south of Kabul. Afghanistan and the US are showing signs of a new approach to insurgents in Afghanistan.

Dusan Vranic/AP

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Islamabad, Pakistan

A private meeting recently between a Taliban figure with ties to the militant Haqqani network and Afghan President Hamid Karzai may indicate a new willingness to engage with groups previously thought of as "too extreme," ultimately allowing Pakistan more room to influence events in Afghanistan as the US prepares to leave next year.

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Maulvi Abdul Kabir, an ex-Taliban governor close to the Haqqani network, which is widely believed to be the US-led coalition’s most fierce enemy, met with President Hamid Karzai just over two weeks ago, the Associated Press reported, citing an unidentified former Afghan official. The meeting was a precursor to ongoing talks with a 70-member council tasked with bringing a close to the Afghanistan insurgency.

According to Brigadier (ret.) Mehmood Shah, a former security chief of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Kabir, who was arrested by Pakistani authorities in February, was likely flown into Kabul with Pakistan’s approval and backing.

The United States has publicly insisted that the Haqqani network based in Afghanistan and Pakistan and led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin, should be excluded from talks. In July, US Gen. David Petraeus, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, suggested the group should be blacklisted, a move backed by Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the US Senate Arms Services Committee.

The purported meeting with Mr. Kabir, would appear to suggest Afghanistan's desire to take a different direction.

Rifaat Hussain, a militancy expert at the Quaid-i-Azam University, says there now appears to be “an effort to co-opt all those elements who are willing to play ball with Karzai, which include the core Haqqani group and even those who hold a position of influence.”

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