A group of Afghan officials from Kandahar province has left Afghanistan for the Pakistani city of Quetta to meet Taliban commanders there and discuss peace efforts, the head of the provincial peace council said Tuesday.
We have been in contact with mid-level Taliban commanders in Quetta for some time. In the last 10 days, our peace council delegation have gone to Quetta three times in twos and threes, Kandahar peace council head Ata Mohammad Ahmadi told Reuters.
Pakistan, seen as critical to efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan, has consistently denied giving sanctuary to insurgents and denies that any Taliban leaders are present in the southwestern city of Quetta, near the Afghan border.
It is unlikely that any meetings between Afghan officials and Taliban commanders could take place in Quetta without the knowledge of Pakistan's pervasive intelligence agencies.
Pakistan may have stepped up its cooperation with the Afghan government by facilitating what Ahmadi said were meetings in Quetta. Pakistani officials were not immediately available for comment.
It was unclear if the reported Quetta meetings were part of broad Afghan government efforts to bring the Taliban into peace talks under a High Peace Council set up by Afghan President Hamid Karzai two years ago to reach out to the insurgents.
(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi and Rob Taylor; Editing by Michael Georgy and Kevin Liffey)