British Prime Minister David Cameron met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday in a summit to encourage regional stability. Both Zardari and Karzai agreed to help Afghanistan reach a peace settlement within six months. Cameron also sought to encourage the Taliban to lay down their arms saying, “Now is the time for everyone to participate in a peaceful, political process in Afghanistan.”
The summit was the third meeting between the three leaders but the first to include senior military and intelligence officials from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The two neighbors also expressed their desire to sign an agreement that would strengthen their economic ties and border management later this year.
David Cameron with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari (right) and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in New York in September. (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA)
As Western forces prepare to withdraw troops in 2014, Karzai seeks to include the Taliban in peace negotiations to end the Afghan insurgency. The three leaders agreed to open an office in Doha, Qatar, which would allow the High Peace Council of Afghanistan to negotiate with the Taliban.
In recent months, the council has requested the release of dozens of Taliban prisoners from Pakistan in support of the peace process. But U.S. and Afghan officials are worried because Pakistan failed to monitor them after their release. A joint statement from this week’s meeting expressed that both Kabul and Islamabad want to better coordinate the release of prisoners.
As international forces continue to look toward the exits in Afghanistan, a political solution, if possible at all, appears to be months away. With a U.S. accelerated troop drawdown in progress, extremists on its border with Pakistan, and a political transition in 2014, Afghanistan still faces significant challenges.