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Afghanistan accused of killing Pak civilians

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has accused Afghan forces of cross-border shelling that has killed at least four Pakistani civilians.
The Pakistani Foreign Ministry says Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani condemned the attack yesterday in a conversation with the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, Mohammad Umar Daudzai. The ministry said the attack killed four civilians.
Pakistani intelligence officials and a local resident say the attack occurred Sunday evening in the border village of Neiznarai, in the South Waziristan tribal area.
They say mortar rounds landed outside a home, killing five people, including four men and a child. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Meanwhile, members of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, led by chairman Salahuddin Rabbani, are to meet Pakistani political leaders and the head of the powerful military over the coming three days.
Support from Pakistan, which backed the Taleban regime that held power in Kabul from 1996 to 2001, is seen as crucial to peace in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
Afghan-Pakistani talks were derailed more than a year ago amid a welter of accusations when Rabbani’s father Burhanuddin, then head of the peace council, was assassinated by a suicide bomber in Kabul. Afghan officials lashed out at Islamabad over the killing of the former president of Afghanistan, saying it was planned in Pakistan and carried out by a Pakistani, while Islamabad blamed Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.
Suspicion and mistrust have long dogged ties between the two neighbors and Kabul has accused Pakistan of supporting Taleban in their 11-year insurgency against the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.
This week’s talks come as efforts to end the Taleban insurgency in Afghanistan gain a new urgency as the withdrawal of US-led NATO combat troops — planned for the end of 2014 — looms ever closer.
But analyst Rahimullah Yusufzai warned no progress of any substance would be made this week, beyond Rabbani getting to meet the Pakistani side for the first time.
“The problem is that the Afghan government has not been in contact with Taleban. Even Rabbani has not been able to get in touch with the Taleban since he became chairman of the council,” Yusufzai told AFP.
“How is it possible to achieve results in such a situation when the council has not been in contact with the Taleban?”
Preliminary contacts between the United States and the Taleban in Doha were broken off in March when the militants failed to secure the release of five of their comrades held in Guantanamo Bay.
Yusufzai said that while Pakistan has some influence over the Taleban it was unrealistic to think Islamabad could convince the militants to return to the negotiating table.
Such a move would require “confidence-building measures” from the United States, he said, and in any event could trigger a split in the Islamist movement.
Analyst Hasan Askari said that while Kabul and Washington might be keen for some kind of accommodation with parts of the Taleban, the insurgents had little incentive to talk, knowing NATO will leave in two years. “They are waiting for withdrawal of international troops and are confident that they can make life for Kabul government miserable,” he told AFP.