Update as of 12:24 a.m. EDT: A one-day discussion between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives ended Tuesday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said, according to the Associated Press, adding that the two sides agreed to meet again after Islam's holy month of Ramadan.
The ministry reportedly said Wednesday that, during the talks -- held at Murree, a mountain resort town near Islamabad -- it was "agreed that for lasting peace in the region, each side would approach the process in sincerity and with full commitment."
Afghanistan and Pakistan began a new set of secretive “negotiations” with the Taliban on Tuesday amid an uptick in violence in Kabul, the Afghan capital. The Taliban has targeted Afghan government and security officials since an American-led invasion ousted the insurgent group in 2011, but the situation has become increasingly dire as the Islamic State militant group gains ground across both countries.
An Afghan delegation allegedly traveled to Pakistan for the new round of talks, according to a Tweet posted by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. A spokesman from Pakistan’s foreign office denied that they were aware of the meeting, but a separate intelligence official said the talks would take place during the meal that marks the break of a day’s fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, the Guardian reported.
The White House welcomed the fresh round of talks, which -- if successful -- could lead to a lasting peace agreement between the two countries that, despite their common enemies, have long been in conflict with each other. "This is an important step toward advancing prospects for a credible peace," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, according to Reuters.
While Afghanistan is engaged in negotiations with foreign enemies, the country is experiencing an uptick in internal violence. On Tuesday, an airstrike in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province killed at least six members of the group also known as ISIS, including a top military commander, according to a tweet from Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS).
#ISIS group's N#2, head of military operations, Gol Zaman, with 6 other members of ISIS were killed in an air strike in Achin, Nengarhar.
— NDS Afghanistan (@NDSAfghanistan) July 7, 2015
The airstrike came after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a vehicle near a NATO car in Kabul, injuring three people. Later that day, three armed militants -- two of them rumored to be wearing suicide vests -- stormed the NDS headquarters and killed at least one guard. The were stopped before they could detonate their explosives.
ISIS declared a so-called province in Afghanistan and Pakistan in January, comprised of former Taliban members, and in the last month managed to seize “substantial territory,” from the insurgent group, according to an exclusive report from Reuters. ISIS-affiliates in the formerly Taliban-controlled Nangarhar province took at least six of its 21 districts, Reuters reported. In some cases, it has already established judicial courts and began to impose its strict laws on civilians.
ISIS’ recent gains were made possible after waves of insurgents pledged allegiance to the group, causing some members of the Taliban to flee. The Afghan Taliban’s campaign against the government could be significantly slowed by ISIS’ advances, but the Taliban’s willingness to negotiation with the governments could also lead to a new wave of defections of its members to ISIS.