It’s not only US-Iran talks that might advance now that President Obama has been re-elected but talks with the Taliban too.
Both the United States and the government of Afghanistan have welcomed Pakistan’s release of a passel of Taliban officials. Though details remain sketchy, it appears that Pakistan’s government and the ISI, the army intelligence service, agreed this week to set free a number of Taliban prisoners. According to Dawn, a Pakistani daily, ten members of the Taliban were released, though not Mullah Baradur, the number-two Taliban official and its military commander, who was seized in 2010. If it’s a first step, if more Taliban are released, and if it opens the way toward peace talks involving Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United States and the Taliban, it could be a major development.
The release followed a high-level visit to Pakistan by an Afghan peace council delegation.
Citing the joint Afghan-Pakistan statement, Dawn reported that an Islamic peace conference might be arranged in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere:
Another important initiative that the two sides agreed during their parleys was about using the influence of clergy to persuade the Taliban to join the peace process. A meeting of clerics from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and some other Muslim countries would be arranged.
“The conference could either be held in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan or any other Islamic country. The Ulema Conference would address the issue of rising militancy and suicide attacks in the name of religion and the defamation of our glorious and peaceful religion Islam due to its unjustified linkage with terrorism,” the statement said.
The New York Times reports that at least seven and as many as fourteen Taliban were freed, including Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, who served as the Taliban’s justice minister until 2001, and the Times quoted a Pakistani analyst thus:
“Things are starting to move. This is definitely an attempt by Pakistan to change tack and show both sides that they are serious about a settlement and an endgame.”