Peace talks with Taliban flounder as infighting between interlocutors deepens

Washington, Feb. 4 (ANI): The Afghan peace effort is floundering, filled with mistrust and confusion among key players even though the hard-line Taliban militants have shown signs of softening.

According to Fox News, the U.S. and its allies hope the peace process, which began nearly two years ago, will gain traction before most international forces withdraw from the country in less than 23 months.

But although the Taliban appeared more ready to talk than ever before, peace talks remain vague because of infighting among a number of interlocutors, all trying to get some kind of negotiations started, the report said.

Members of the Taliban are in contact with representatives from 30 to 40 different countries, senior U.S., Afghan and other officials told an international news agency in an interview in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Moreover, the relationship among the key players, the U.S., Afghanistan and Pakistan, is marked by distrust that keeps tugging momentum away from the peace process.

Many of the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the sensitive contacts with the Taliban.

According to the report, finding a path to the negotiating table will be a topic when Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan President Asif Zardari hold a series of meetings, which is beginning on Monday with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Karzai recently warned the West not to use peace talks as a lever against his government.

As well, both Kabul and Washington are frustrated that Pakistan is not monitoring the whereabouts and activities of Taliban prisoners it released in recent months, the report said.

According to the report, no one in either Pakistan or Afghanistan seems to know where the dozens of released prisoners have gone.

The peace council, which Karzai set up to carry out peace negotiations, handed Pakistan the list of prisoners, including Turabi, that it wanted freed.

They have also asked for the release of the Taliban's former second in command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, but Washington has urged Pakistan not to release him, U.S. and Afghan officials said.

For its part, the United States has tried to accelerate the peace process by working with Britain, Norway and Germany to reach out to the Taliban, said a senior Western diplomat familiar with the negotiations.

According to the report, both France and Tokyo have hosted meetings that have been attended by Afghan officials, opposition leaders and the Taliban, although the Taliban insist their participation should not be misinterpreted as negotiations.

One senior U.S. official said the process is so nascent and egos so fragile that it's like negotiating a minefield, the report added. (ANI)

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