Afghan officials are reportedly seeking to create a "safe zone" for Taliban insurgents in a bid to disassociate them from sanctuaries inside Pakistan.
If implemented, the strategy could, for better or for worse, be a game changer in the country where peace bids have repeatedly failed.
“I urge the Taliban to return to Afghanistan. We should make a safe zone for them and their families,” Abdul Raziq, the police chief of Kandahar, told a gathering of religious scholars and tribal elders last month, AFP reported.
“We can no longer rely on foreign governments and embassies to end the war. The Taliban belong to this country, they are sons of this soil,” Raziq, who has gained fearsome reputation for fighting the insurgents.
The report also cited another senior security official as saying that the government’s goal “is to bring the Taliban from Pakistan to Afghanistan.”
“We will separate a territory for them to come with their families. Then whether they want to fight or talk peace, they will be relieved from the pressure of Pakistan,” the unnamed official was quoted as saying adding the government was in contact with the Taliban leaders.
The official refused to specify the possible location for the safe zone, but insisted no areas with military installations will be handed over.
Pakistan has historically backed the Afghan Taliban giving sanctuaries and support even as they were toppled in 2001, according to analysts.
After taking office as Afghan president in 2014, Ashraf Ghani pressured Pakistan to help broker peace talks with the Taliban, but Islamabad failed to bring the insurgents to the negotiation table.
While Taliban has publicly rejected Pakistan’s influence in the group, senior members of the group have suggested that they are vulnerable to Pakistan’s interference.
“The presence of our movement’s key decision makers and institutions inside Pakistan means they can impose things that are against the interests of our movement and Afghanistan,” Sayed Tayeeb Agha, the former head of the Taliban’s political commission, wrote in a letter last year to Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada.
“To be able to make independent decisions, our leadership… should leave Pakistan,” he added.
AFP citing a top Quetta Shura member said that Taliban’s military chief Ibrahim Sadr recently moved to an undisclosed location in Afghanistan. He said that Ibrahim also urged Haibatullah to come to Afghanistan but he refused.
The report of Afghan government seeking to create safe zone for Taliban comes three weeks after 1TV published documents revealing military plan to withdraw forces from Marjah district in Helmand province.
The plan was criticized by some lawmakers and civil society activists, some of whom called for resignation of the military leadership.
“The government shouldn’t be giving safe zones to terrorists,” warned former Helmand governor Sher Mohammad Akhundzada as cited in the report. Some observers dismissed the strategy as “illogical”.