By Ali Safi, McClatchy Newspapers –
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban must promise to disassociate from international terrorism and affirm their desire to participate in tentative talks on a political settlement to the war in Afghanistan, a senior U.S. official said on Sunday.
Marc Grossman, the the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said during a visit to Kabul that Pakistan also had to play a key role in any peace talks, but sought to downplay tensions stemming from Islamabad’s decision not to allow Grossman to visit Pakistan as planned.
Grossman said that once the Pakistani parliament completes a review of Islamabad’s badly strained relations with Washington, “I will be glad to meet them anytime.”
Jawid Ludin, Afghan deputy foreign minister, said at a news conference with Grossman that “the role of Pakistan is crucial.”
“I am looking forward to for the Taliban to be clear about breaking their ties with international terrorism, denounce it, distance themselves from it, and also they should say they are prepared to participate in Afghan peace process,” Grossman said.
The Taliban recently announced they agreed to open an office for peace talks in the Gulf state of Qatar.
“For an office to open, we need a clear statement from the Taliban against international terrorism and support for the peace process to end the armed conflict in Afghanistan,” Grossmann said.
Ludin emphasized that the office hasn’t been established. “There are many steps we should take, but in principle we support the establishment of an office in Qatar,” he said.
Grossman also confirmed a meeting between U.S. and Haqqani group of insurgents. “We had one meeting with Haqqani network.,” Grossmann said.
The Haqqani network is an insurgent group fighting U.S.-led NATO forces and the Afghan government. It was an ally of America during the 1980s against the Soviet Union. It now operates on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and is believed to be based in Pakistan’s Waziristan tribal region. The network is allied with Taliban.