KABUL - British Prime Minister David Cameron will hold a Number 10 summit meeting between Afghan and Pakistani leaders next week in hopes of getting the stalled Taliban peace process moving. Cameron made a similar attempt back in February when President Hamid Karzai met with Islamabad officials in Chequers, England that ultimately proved futile.
At the Chequers summit, Karzai met with Pakistani officials, though not the Prime Minister at the time Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. The leaders made a number of ambitious promises about peace negotiations and bringing peace to Afghanistan in a matter of months. Cameron announced the two South Asian neighbors would take steps to "achieve the goal of a peace settlement over the next six months."
But now, nine months later, reconciliation talks with the Taliban are dead in the water and Afghan and coalitions forces are coming out of one of the most violent fighting seasons on record just under a year away from the end of the NATO combat mission.
A senior Afghan official said that at the upcoming meeting in Britain Karzai would demand that Pakistan prevent the Taliban from launching attacks during the spring Presidential and Provincial Council elections. With the upcoming elections being the first Karzai will not compete in, and falling in the same year foreign troops withdraw, experts and the public alike are anxious about the durability of the fledgling government in Kabul.
The official that Karzai would also ask to Pakistan follow through with its promise to release Mullah Baradar, the Taliban's former second-in-command, who was said to have been released last month in order to help facilitate peace talks with the insurgency. Although reports suggest Baradar was released from prison, it has been indicated that he remains under tight supervision by Pakistani authorities.
The Afghan President is also expected to ask Islamabad's officials to urge the Taliban towards talks by opening an office in Saudi Arabia or Turkey. An attempt to kick-start negotiations in June crashed and burned as soon as it began when the Taliban opened a political office in Qatar amidst controversy around its apparent representation as an Afghan "government in exile."
British officials suggested the new summit comes at a time when Afghan and Pakistani leaders are more willing to work together toward peace with the Taliban than ever before. One of the reasons for this shift may be the emergence of Nawaz Sharif as the new Prime Minister in Islamabad, but more likely, it is largely a product of growing anxieties about what post-2014 Afghanistan will look like for either country if relations with the Taliban militancy remain as they are.
Meanwhile, Cameron recently visited British troops stationed in Afghanistan and spoke warmly about their accomplishments and the progress of Afghan forces.
"I think you should not just be proud of this tour that you've undertaken but I think we should be proud what we've achieved in Afghanistan since 2001," he said. "When British soldiers first went to Afghanistan in 2001 there was no Afghan army, there was no Afghan police, there was really no Afghan state...what you have helped to put in place is the start of a state and a society that can take care of its own security."
Britain has roughly 7,900 soldiers left in Afghanistan, with most of them based in southern Helmand province. The country has lost 445 soldiers to combat since joining the U.S. invasion in 2001. (Tolo News)