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Karzai In Pakistan On 'Support Drive'

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his government would hold talks with Taliban leaders
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his government would hold talks with Taliban leaders
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has restated his government's resolve to hold peace talks with the Taliban, during a visit to neighboring Pakistan.

Karzai is visiting Pakistan just days ahead of September 18 parliamentary elections in his war-battered country and amid increased strikes from unmanned U.S. drones targeting suspected Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders in the Pakistani tribal areas.

Addressing a joint news conference with his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari on September 15, the Afghan leader said his government was prepared to hold talks with Taliban leaders who have dissociated themselves from Al-Qaeda and stopped supporting terrorism.

Afghan and Pakistani analysts speaking to RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal have described Karzai's visit as a drive for Islamabad's support.

Salim Safi, a political analyst in Islamabad, says that "strong security during the election is also dependent on Pakistani cooperation, and definitely, Karzai will be trying to win the support of Pakistan for the holding of peaceful elections."

Safi said Pakistan's role was more important than any other country in the plan that Karzai announced to hold talks with the Taliban and the Hezb-e-Islami
faction -- led by former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar -- that has also been fighting NATO-led and Afghan government forces.

"The nature of the relationship between Pakistan and the United States and between Pakistan and Afghanistan is being reshaped in recent times and Karzai's visit is seen in this context as well. And the success of the plan announced by Hamid Karzai for reconciliation with the Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami is also dependent on the role of Pakistan," Safi said.

In Kabul, Abdul Ghafoor Liwal, head of the Regional Studies Center, agreed Karzai needed support from Pakistan.

"Recently, progress has emerged in the Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship about some new developments on the scene and the same political and economic developments will [have been] discussed during the recent visit [of Karzai]," Liwal said.

"There is no doubt that Pakistan is holding a special position in the reconciliation plan that the Afghan president wants to introduce and implement."

Karzai is visiting Pakistan at a time when unmanned U.S. drones have made a record number of missile attacks on suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda hideouts in the tribal areas of the country.

He is due to return home on September 16.