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Karzai arrives in Pakistan for Peace Talks

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to press Pakistan during a visit that began Thursday on specific steps Islamabad can take to facilitate peace talks with the Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan is seen as key to the peace process because of its historical ties with the Taliban and their feared ally, the Haqqani network. The leaders of both groups are believed to be based in Pakistan and in close touch with Pakistani intelligence officials.

One of the people Karzai is scheduled to meet during his trip is Maulana Samiul Haq, known as the spiritual father of the Taliban because he runs an Islamic seminary in northwest Pakistan that has taught many of the group's leaders. Haq has also supported the insurgency in Afghanistan.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also scheduled to arrive Thursday for a three-way summit with Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Haq urged the leaders of the three nations to work together to push U.S.-led forces out of Afghanistan.

"This is a time when the Taliban are defeating Western forces in Afghanistan," Haq told The Associated Press. "A forceful stance by Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran will bring peace and stability in this region by pushing out the foreign forces."

The meeting comes at a time when momentum for peace talks with the Taliban seems to be growing.

The U.S. and Afghan governments have begun secret three-way discussions with the Taliban, The Wall Street Journal quoted Karzai as saying Thursday. Karzai believes most Taliban are "definitely" interested in a peace settlement, the paper said.

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