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The Taliban’s plan to set up an office in Doha

With troop withdrawal from Afghanistan imminent, the US will be pulling out of a battle-scarred Afghanistan where after over a decade of war, stability, development and reform still remain elusive.
The carnage in Afghanistan continues unabated. On 6th January five NATO service members were killed in southern Afghanistan in a roadside bomb attack. It is estimated that at least 544 NATO troops died in Afghanistan in 2011 alone.
The killing of 24 Pakistani troops in a NATO air strike along the Afghan border in November last year cast a dark shadow over the already fraught Pakistan US relationship.  A consequence of the subcontinent’s colonised past, the 1,600 mile Pak-Afghan border was delineated in 1893 by the Foreign Secretary of British India, Sir Mortimer Durand and became known as the Durand Line. This border remains highly porous, with Afghans crossing regularly, escaping the lawless violence of Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s decision to boycott the Bonn conference in December last year in protest at the killing of its soldiers by NATO forces further excluded it from playing a meaningful role in Afghanistan’s future. Pakistan is home to the largest refugee population in the world as it hosts millions of Afghan refugees who fled Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. Pakistan has suffered disastrous consequences as a result of the US invasion of Afghanistan with the displacement of Al Qaeda into Pakistan territory. Pakistan must therefore ensure that it does not allow itself to be marginalised from discussions on Afghanistan policy as it has a vital role to play in the settlement of the conflict.
In an effort to quell tensions, the CIA announced a halt in drone attacks in Pakistan which have caused much outrage across the country as such incursions are  perceived as a violation of  the country’s national sovereignty. In a recent meeting with Pakistan Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao expressed unqualified support for safeguarding Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Since losing power in the wake of the US-led invasion in 2001, the resurgence of the Afghan Taliban is amply demonstrated by their plans to open a liaison office in Doha, Qatar, with Tayyab Agha as their representative – a move which was initially resisted by Afghan President Hamid Karzai but reluctantly accepted in December after US insistence. This may overhaul the Taliban’s image from detested terrorists to key mediators in a crucial peace deal.

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