Afghan peace 'top priority' for Pakistan Army
Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani has made reconciling warring factions in Afghanistan a top priority, military officials and Western diplomats have said.
Kayani is backing dialogue partly due to fears that the end of the US combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014 could energise a resilient insurgency straddling the shared frontier, according to commanders deployed in the region, reports The Nation.
On December 7, Kayani hammered home his determination to support a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan at a meeting of top commanders at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi.
Diplomats in Islamabad argue that Pakistan has begun to show markedly greater enthusiasm for Western-backed attempts to engage with Taliban leaders. Western diplomats say Islamabad is now serious about promoting stability in Afghanistan.
Kayani ordered Pakistan's biggest offensive against the militants in 2009, pouring 40,000 troops into South Waziristan in a bid to decisively tip the balance against the growing challenge they posed to the state.
Kayani has earned a reputation as a thoughtful commander who has curbed the military's tendency to meddle overtly in politics.
With Kayani's support, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has held repeated rounds of discussions with Afghan counterparts, and in November Pakistan released more than a dozen Taliban prisoners.
The move aimed at reassuring the Afghan government and Pakistan's allies of Islamabad's good faith and telegraph to the Taliban that Pakistan is serious about facilitating talks.
Kayani flew to Kabul last month for talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and accompanied Khar on a visit to Brussels to meet top NATO and US officials in early December.
Kayani's growing support for dialogue is driven to a large extent by a realisation that the United States is intent on sticking to its Afghan withdrawal plans, diplomats say.