Sunday, April 17, 2011 5:21 AM
Busy Saturday in A-stan.
To the east, an Afghan Army suicide bomber murdered five NATO soldiers and five Afghans. The Taliban claimed credit.
Update: All five NATO soldiers were Americans from the Army's 101st Airborne Division.
That brings the four-month total of Western forces killed "inside the wire" by their own supposed Afghan allies to 27.
In the south, two separate Taliban IED explosions killed three NATO soldiers. No word on injuries.
Meanwhile, back in Kabul, Hamid Karzai met with Pakistan, almost literally in a symbolic way, to discuss peace talks with the Taliban and other "reconciliation" issues. Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart Gilani announced "an upgraded Afghanistan-Pakistan Joint Commission comprising of top-ranking officials...to accelerate and promote a peace process."
Do we really have to stick around for this?
Do NATO forces really have to continue to die by Afghan/Taliban arms,on absurd missions to reclaim yards of Taliban rubble for no good reason (please watch this excruciating BBC video from Sangin) especially if "reconciliation" is the future? It is more than passing strange to watch Afghanistan and Pakistan (and ISI) move forward on peace talks with the Taliban simultaneously supported by the US, which just recently threw in a $50 million peace-talk sweetener. .("$oon all the [Afghan] governor$ will have a `floating fund' at their di$posal," the Wash Post reports. Oh goody.)
Isn't three a crowd?
Pakistan's Dawn adds some details on the Af-Pak meeting:
[Pakistan's Prime MInister] Gilani, Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Inter Services Intelligence Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha flew to Kabul at a time when US relations with both countries are under strain.
ISI, of course, is Pakistani gov-speak for Taliban High Command.
Political observers attached great significance to the presence of Pakistan`s “power elite” at the Afghan presidential palace at the same time.
The two countries announced the upgradation of a joint commission for peace in an attempt to end militancy in Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Gilani said he and Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former Afghan president and chief of the Peace Council, would lead talks involving the military and intelligence chiefs from both sides for the first time.
Mr Gilani and Mr Karzai, who held exhaustive talks at the presidential palace, described the parleys as “historic”, saying that “the two countries stand together as they have shared destinies”.
“Today`s visit, I believe, has been one of the most historical and unprecedented meetings because all the stakeholders were with us,” Mr Gilani said at a joint news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The original commission was set up in January.
Mr Karzai said he had discussed the move with US counterpart Barack Obama during a phone call last week, and the upgraded commission had the full backing of the United States. “We welcome the participation of the US in this tripartite arrangement…We have recently seen more interest by the US in the peace process,” he told the news conference. But both Mr Gilani and Mr Karzai were keen to emphasise that the peace process would remain “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned”.
Asked whether the United States was on board regarding the joint peace initiative, the prime minister said “the US is on board. That`s our core group and whatever will be decided, will be between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US”.
In reply to a question about Al Qaeda`s presence in Pakistan, Mr Gilani said: “It is your country`s (Afghanistan`s) problem and you have to decide and set parameters.”
Whatever that means.
About the role of the United States in Afghanistan, the premier said “whatever is the policy of the US on Afghanistan, Pakistan will support Afghanistan”.
With Karzai, that could mean anything -- even joining the Taliban,