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Karzai to end Taliban peace talks, focus on Pakistan ties

But will the Afghan president's new drive to negotiate more with Pakistan achieve better results than the Taliban peace talks?

By Correspondent / October 2, 2011

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who for years pushed for reconciliation with the Taliban, now says attempts to negotiate with the insurgent movement are futile and efforts at dialogue should focus instead on neighboring Pakistan. The Afghan leader explained in a videotaped speech released by his office Saturday Oct. 1, 2011 that he changed his views after a suicide bomber, claiming to be a peace emissary from the insurgents, killed former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani at his home on Sept. 20. Rabbani was leading Karzai's effort to broker peace with the Taliban.

Kamran Jebreili/AP

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Kabul, Afghanistan

In a move that will likely bring a dramatic shift to the direction of peace talks in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has announced that he will stop talks with the Taliban and focus efforts on Pakistan.

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The status of peace talks have been uncertain since a suicide bomber killed the head of Mr. Karzai’s High Peace Council, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, less than two weeks ago.

Though the Taliban have not claimed responsibility for the killing, the assassination raised questions about the insurgency’s willingness to engage in peace talks.

Karzai’s announcement that the Afghan government will now focus negotiation efforts on Pakistan comes as an acknowledgement that previous peace talks were not working. But many observers say that they worry the president’s new push to involve Pakistan more may not achieve better results.

“For the last three years, the Afghan government made a lot of efforts to talk with the government opposition. The talks were not useless, but assassinations, suicide attacks, and violations by the opposition increased,” wrote Siamak Herawi, deputy spokesman for Karzai, in an e-mail to the Monitor. “After many meetings with the country’s elders, Soviet resistance leaders, and the religious scholars’ council, the president wanted to change the procedure of negotiations.”

Ineffective outreach

Last fall Karzai formed the High Peace Council to reach out to the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Led by Mr. Rabbani and many other key Taliban opposition figures, the group was criticized from the start as an ineffectual outreach group and did not produce any significant results over the last year.

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