Pakistan, Afghanistan trying to turn Taliban into political movement

Pakistan is seen as critical to U.S. and Afghan efforts to promote peace in Afghanistan.

Soldiers in Afghanistan. Picture: AFP

KABUL -The Pakistani government said it was genuine about backing a nascent Afghan peace process.

It also shares the goal of transforming the Taliban insurgency into a political movement

Pakistan is seen as critical to U.S. and Afghan efforts to promote peace in Afghanistan.

This task is said to be gaining urgency as NATO troops prepare to withdraw by the end of 2014 and hand over security responsibilities to government forces.

"They have told us that they share the vision contained in our roadmap which is basically to transform the Taliban from a military entity into a political entity to enable them to take part in the Afghan political process and peacefully seek power like any other political entity in Afghanistan," the official said, referring to Pakistan.

"This is the vision that they share."

The official's remarks signalled unprecedented optimism from Afghanistan that Pakistan - long accused of backing Afghan insurgents - was now willing to put its weight behind reconciliation efforts, which are still in early stages and vulnerable to factionalism.

Mutual suspicions between Afghanistan and its nuclear-armed neighbour, Pakistan, have hampered efforts to tackle militancy in one of the world's most explosive regions.

Pakistan has long been seen as determined to block the influence of old rival India in Afghanistan.

It is also believed to be quietly supporting the Taliban in the hope they would exclude from power rival, pro-India Afghan factions.

Afghanistan and Pakistan appear to now agree that it is in their interests to work more closely together, with the NATO deadline looming.

Failure to do so could embolden Taliban hardliners determined to re-impose their austere version of Islam.

The Taliban spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the discussions in France.

The talks included former members of the Northern Alliance faction, which fought the Taliban for years, and Afghan peace negotiators.

The Taliban say they were represented by prominent figures in the movement such as Shahabuddin Delawar, from its political office, which is based in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar.

Until now, the Taliban and Afghan officials only made indirect contacts.