Afghan officials met key Taleban figure in Pakistan

Updated 13 August 2012

Afghan officials met key Taleban figure in Pakistan

KABUL/ISLAMABAD: Afghan officials have held secret talks with the Taleban's former second in command who is in detention in Pakistan in a move which could help rekindle stalled peace talks with the insurgents, according to senior officials from both countries.
Afghan officials have often seen Pakistan as a reluctant partner in attempts to broker talks with the Taleban but its decision to grant access to Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar may signal Islamabad's willingness to play a more active role.
Rangin Spanta, the national security adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and an architect of peace-building efforts, said an Afghan delegation had met Baradar in Pakistan two months ago.
Baradar has been in detention since he was captured in a joint operation by the CIA and Pakistani intelligence agents in the Pakistani city of Karachi in 2010.
“We have met Mullah Baradar,” Spanta told Reuters in Kabul. “Our delegation has spoken to him to know his view on peace talks.”
Afghan officials have publicly been demanding access to Baradar, the Taleban's top military commander until he was captured, but Spanta's revelation shows preliminary contact has already been made.
Rehman Malik, Pakistan's interior minister, also said that Pakistan had granted Afghan officials access to Baradar.
“They had access at the required and appropriate level,” Malik told Reuters. “We are fully cooperating with Afghanistan and whatever they are asking for the peace process, for developing peace in Afghanistan. We are giving every kind of help.”
Pakistan is seen as crucial to stability in Afghanistan as most foreign combat troops look to leave the country in 2014, given close political and economic ties and because militant sanctuaries straddle the mountainous border.
Baradar was the main day-to-day commander responsible for leading the Taleban campaign against US and NATO troops, plotting suicide bombings and other attacks.
He was the right-hand man to reclusive Taleban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar providing him with great influence and prestige in Taleban circles.
Afghan officials hope Baradar could play a key role in any negotiations to end the war, acting as a go-between with Taleban leaders including Omar.
Afghan and US officials have publicly acknowledged little success in efforts to re-start peace talks, which the Taleban suspended after accusing US officials of failing to honour 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 Taleban publicly say they will not talk to what they deem an illegitimate “puppet” government.
Karzai, at a recent donors' meeting in Japan, also appealed to Germany to act as a go-between to revive talks, in a second track to contacts with Taleban leaders in Pakistan. 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 Taleban representatives.
The Afghan government has established some contacts with the Taleban, 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.

 


Trump: I am Israel’s best pal in the White House

Updated 24 min 40 sec ago

Trump: I am Israel’s best pal in the White House

  • Unlike his predecessors, Donald Trump says ‘I kept my promises’
  • The president also claimed there are some Jewish people in America who don’t love Israel enough

HOLLYWOOD, Florida: President Donald Trump said Saturday that Israel has never had a better friend in the White House than him because, unlike his predecessors, “I kept my promises.”
Trump energized an audience that numbered in the hundreds at the Israeli American Council National Summit in Florida by recounting his record on issues of importance to Jews, including an extensive riff on his promise to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and relocate the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Trump said his predecessors only paid lip service to the issue.
“They never had any intention of doing it, in my opinion,” Trump said. “But unlike other presidents, I kept my promises.”
Trump also highlighted his decision to reverse more than a half-century of US policy in the Middle East by recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the strategic highlands on the border with Syria.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war but its sovereignty over the territory had not been recognized by the international community.
In his speech, the president also claimed there are some Jewish people in America who don’t love Israel enough.
“We have to get the people of our country, of this country, to love Israel more, I have to tell you that. We have to do it. We have to get them to love Israel more,” Trump said, to some applause. “Because you have Jewish people that are great people — they don’t love Israel enough.”
Aaron Keyak, the former head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, denounced Trump’s remarks as anti-Semitic.
“Trump’s insistence on using anti-Semitic tropes when addressing Jewish audiences is dangerous and should concern every member of the Jewish community — even Jewish Republicans,” Keyak said.
Trump has been accused of trafficking in anti-Semitic stereotypes before, including in August, when he said American Jews who vote for Democrats show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” A number of Jewish groups noted at the time that accusations of disloyalty have long been made against Jews.
The Israeli American Council is financially backed by one of Trump’s top supporters, the husband-and-wife duo of Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate.
Both Adelsons appeared on stage to introduce Trump, with Miriam Adelson asserting that Trump “has already gone down in the annals of Jewish history, and that is before he’s even completed his first term in office.”
The Adelsons donated $30 million to Trump’s campaign in the final months of the 2016 race. They followed up by donating $100 million to the Republican Party for the 2018 congressional elections.
Trump’s entourage at the event included Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, along with Republican Reps. Jim Jordan and Michael Waltz, whom he described as “two warriors” defending him against “oppression” in the impeachment inquiry.
Trump criticized Israel’s sworn enemy, Iran, saying he withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal with other world powers because Tehran must never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon
But Trump voiced support for Iranian citizens who have been protesting a decision by their government to withdraw fuel subsidies, which sent prices skyrocketing.
Trump said he believes thousands of Iranians have been killed in the protests and that thousands more have been arrested.
“America will always stand with the Iranian people in their righteous struggle for freedom,” he said.