Afghanistan accused Pakistan on Thursday of placing unacceptable conditions on efforts to bring peace to the country after nearly 12 years of war, the latest in a series of barbed exchanges that has sunk relations between the two neighbors to a new low.
A breakdown in ties threatens to hinder — or even paralyze — attempts to lure the Taliban to the negotiating table. That’s a key goal of the United States and its allies as they work for a peaceful solution in Afghanistan ahead of the final pullout of foreign combat forces in 20 months.
Afghanistan and its international backers consider Pakistan a critical player in bringing the Taliban and other terror groups into negotiations. Pakistan holds dozens of Taliban prisoners and has been accused of backing the insurgents in an effort to be able to exert influence in Afghanistan after foreign troops leave.
A senior Pakistan official said, however, that Islamabad remained committed to reconciliation.
That’s why Pakistan recently released 26 Afghan Taliban prisoners from its jails, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. Pakistan remains in contact with members of the Taliban who have been empowered to talk about reconciliation, he said.
A failure to bring peace could endanger the stability of Afghanistan and much of the region, including Pakistan, which is fighting its own domestic Taliban insurgency.
“We have told the Pakistanis that they should support peace in Afghanistan not only for the sake of the Afghan people, but for their own sake,” Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai told The Associated Press in an interview on Thursday.
He said Afghanistan wants a close, broad, strategic relationship with Pakistan, “but one between two equal independent sovereign states, nothing less.”