Pakistan grants Afghan officials access to a top Taliban leader
By making the Taliban's former second in command available to Afghan negotiators, Pakistan may be signalling a willingness to rekindle stalled peace talks.
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Critical to reconciliation?
Afghan officials hope Baradar could play a key role in any negotiations to end the war, acting as a go-between with Taliban leaders including Omar.Skip to next paragraph
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Afghan and US officials have publicly acknowledged little success in efforts to re-start peace talks, which the Taliban suspended after accusing US officials of failing to honor confidence-building promises.
That setback refocused attention on nascent efforts by the Afghan government to open its own channels with insurgent intermediaries, despite the fact the Taliban publicly say they will not talk to what they deem an illegitimate "puppet" government.
A Western official said Pakistan's decision to grant access to Baradar would bolster hopes of greater collaboration between the two countries, but the Afghan government would only be fully satisfied if Baradar was repatriated to Kabul.
"It's a step in the right direction, but there's still a number of steps to go," the official said.
Although Afghan officials may be pinning hopes on Baradar, it is unclear what influence he may have over a complex insurgency after spending years in detention.
Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed last month to resume regular talks on Afghanistan's peace process, with the new Pakistani prime minister promising to help arrange meetings between Afghan and Taliban representatives.
Afghanistan is known to want access to Taliban leaders belonging to the so-called Quetta Shura, or council, named after the Pakistani city where they are believed to be based.
Kabul believes they would be the decision-makers in any substantive negotiations aimed at ending a war in its eleventh year.
Pakistan has consistently denied giving sanctuary to insurgents and says no Taliban leaders are in Quetta.
The Afghan government has established some contacts with the Taliban, who have made a strong comeback after being toppled in 2001, but there are no signs that full-fledged peace talks will happen any time soon.
US diplomats have also been seeking to broaden exploratory talks that began clandestinely in Germany in late 2010 after the Taliban offered to open a representative office in the Gulf emirate of Qatar, prompting demands for inclusion from Kabul.
* Additional reporting by Matthew Green in Islamabad and Rob Taylor in Kabul; Editing by Robert Birsel.