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Karzai reviews Taliban peace strategy

AFP

KABUL AFGHAN President Hamid Karzai is reviewing his strategy for peace with the Taliban after his top envoy was murdered, a spokesman said on Sunday, as officials said the killer was Pakistani.

Karzai’s pointman on Taliban talks, High Peace Council chairman Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated last month by a turban bomber who had purported to be a peace emissary from the insurgents.

A statement released by Karzai’s presidential palace on Sunday said new evidence showed that Rabbani’s killer was “a citizen of Pakistan”.

Many Afghans are suspicious of Pakistan’s connections to the Taliban-led insurgency in their country but the statement was the strongest yet to indicate a Pakistani link to Rabbani’s killing.

Karzai spoke on Friday of the need for discussions with Pakistan to bring peace to Afghanistan and of his frustration at the failure of talks to establish contact with senior Afghan Taliban chiefs like supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. Evidence shows that Rabbani’s death on September 20 “was plotted in Quetta and the person who carried out the suicide attack... was a citizen of Pakistan,” the presidential palace statement said, quoting an official investigation team.

Afghan officials have already said that Rabbani’s murder was planned by the Afghan Taliban’s leadership body, the Quetta Shura, in Pakistan. But the militant group has not claimed responsibility for the killing.

The statement added that the killer had been living in the Pakistani border town of Chaman, citing proof including documents and confessions of a man arrested last month in connection with the death.

The statement also quoted investigators as saying: “Documents and evidence together with the biography, address and phone numbers of suspects involved in the incident have been submitted to the government of Pakistan in order to arrest and hand them (other suspects) over.” The claims came hours after a spokesman for Karzai, Siamak Herawi, said the president was reviewing his strategy for peace with the Taliban in the wake of Rabbani’s killing.

No substantive peace talks have yet taken place between the Afghan government and the Taliban, leaders of a 10- year insurgency which has led to 140,000 foreign troops being stationed in Afghanistan. “All peace talks with the Taliban are suspended. The president will review the peace and reconciliation strategy,” Herawi told. The spokesman said Karzai was expected to announce a new strategy for peace efforts in a televised address “very soon”.

Separately, members of the High Peace Council backed Karzai reviewing his policy on peace talks, saying negotiations “should be held with the government of Pakistan”. The Taliban have long rejected Karzai’s calls for peace talks, saying they will not hold any discussions until all foreign troops leave.

Rabbani’s killing was Afghanistan’s highest-profile political assassination since a US-led invasion launched on October 7, 2001 ousted the Taliban.

It dealt perhaps the heaviest blow yet to Karzai’s hopes of securing reconciliation with the Taliban.

Karzai spoke of his frustrations over the process at a meeting with Islamic clerics on Friday, where he also stressed the importance of negotiating with Pakistan in a bid to end the war.


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