Karzai Breaks Off Talks With The Taliban

In a surprising about-face, Afghan President Hamid Karzai appears to be abandoning his government's long-standing effort to hold peace talks with the Taliban in Pakistan, saying they aren't serious about negotiations. NPR's Quil Lawrence reports.

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AUDIE CORNISH, Host:

In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai says he will not longer seek to negotiate directly with the Taliban. This is a surprising about-face. Making peace with the Taliban has been the signature of Karzai's second term in office, and a policy supported by the United States. For now on, Karzai says, Afghanistan must negotiate directly with Pakistan, long considered a patron of Afghan insurgents.

NPR's Quil Lawrence reports from Kabul.

QUIL LAWRENCE: President Karzai made the announcement less than two weeks after Burhanuddin Rabbani, former Afghan president and Karzai's appointee to head peace talks, was killed by a man who claimed to be carrying a message from the Taliban. The insurgents have been unusually silent about the killing, neither accepting nor denying responsibility.

President Karzai said there is no one to talk with on the Taliban side.

HAMID KARZAI: (Foreign language spoken)

LAWRENCE: When the people ask me who is on the other side of the negotiations, I have no choice but to say Pakistan, said Karzai.

Many read Karzai's comments as another way to accuse the neighboring state of tolerating, aiding or even directing insurgent attacks in Afghanistan. Afghan officials say they have proof the Rabbani's assassination was planned near Quetta, the Pakistani city where the Taliban are believed to keep a headquarters.

Afghan officials accuse the ISI ? Pakistan's spy service - of engineering the murder perhaps to show that peace cannot happen without their consent.

Afghanistan has cancelled a meeting to have been held in Kabul this week with the U.S. and Pakistan. Instead, it plans to present Pakistan with evidence about the Rabbani assassination.

Janan Mosazai is spokesman for the Afghan Foreign Ministry.

JANAN MOSAZAI: Our engagement with Pakistan will continue as the president has indicated. But we will focus more on efforts that are tangible, on steps that are practical, not just promises of cooperation and support.

LAWRENCE: Both American and Afghan officials have blamed recent attacks in Kabul on the Pakistani-sponsored Haqqani network; a particularly violent family organization based on the Afghan-Pakistan border. Islamabad denies any link with Haqqani or the Taliban.

Quil Lawrence, NPR News, Kabul.

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