Home inContext Afghan-Pakistani Talks Show Limited Cooperation

Afghan-Pakistani Talks Show Limited Cooperation

Michael Johnson

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif completed a round of talks earlier this week in Islamabad focusing on security and the Taliban peace talks. Karzai, who extended his visit an extra day, failed to gain substantial assurances of help from the Pakistani government.

President Karzai hoped Pakistan could help the Afghan High Peace Council gain momentum in talks with the Taliban. The Pakistani PM said he would help persuade the Taliban to move its diplomatic office from Qatar to Saudi Arabia or Turkey. Afghan leaders held strong objections to the mission in Doha after the Islamists raised their black flag over the compound earlier this year.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (right) greets Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Islamabad on August 26. (Photo: AFP)

But Islamabad’s political will soon ran out, the Pakistani government refused to set a timetable to release more captured Taliban prisons. Karzai hopes freeing Taliban prisoners, such as second-in-command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, would help restart negotiations. Lastly, Karzai wants a stronger Pakistani commitment to fight the Afghan Taliban in the mountainous tribal regions between the two countries. Elements of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are accused of backing the Afghan Taliban and giving them a safe haven to launch attacks from.

While Islamabad has given its support for the peace process, there are several reasons Pakistani politicians have failed to make stronger commitments to the Afghan President. First, Karzai could be seen as a lame-duck, elections next April should replace the long serving President with a new leader. Also, Pakistan’s military still holds significant influence over security and foreign policy, leaving politicians such as Sharif with limited capability to enforce their promises to take on insurgents.

Soon after Karzai’s trip ended a suicide bombing killed 10 civilians near a NATO convoy and highlighted the security challenges Afghanistan’s government faces. With time running out before NATO forces leave, Kabul’s leverage over the insurgent Taliban fighters is quickly diminishing.