ISLAMABAD - The Quadrilateral Coordination Group on Afghanistan will meet in Islamabad today to contemplate a roadmap for peace and reconciliation, government sources said yesterday.

Senior officials of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US will attend the meeting, the third since formation of the four-nation group in December. Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz will address the opening session.

The Coordination Group will pick up the third from the second meeting held in Kabul last month. Member-countries of the Heart of Asia Process on the sidelines of the conference on Afghanistan, hosted by Pakistan in December last year, formed the Quadrilateral Group to strive to steer out Afghanistan from the decades of violence and establish peace through peaceful means.

The group has so far held three meeting to move beyond the continuous cycle of conflict by engaging the Taliban who have so far not joined the reconciliation process even though the main faction of Taliban, led by Mullah Akhtar Mansur, has hinted at joining it at an appropriate time.

In his address to the maiden four-nation meeting in Islamabad last month, Sartaj Aziz said the talks aimed at outlining efficient procedures which would provide a basis for smooth functioning of the Quadrilateral Group.

He underlined the importance of not attaching pre-conditions to the negotiating process. “This, in our view, would be counter-productive. Threat of use of military action against irreconcilables cannot precede the offer of talks to all the groups and their response to such offers,” he said.

Sartaj warned against prematurely deciding which Taliban factions were ready to talk. “Distinction between reconcilables and irreconcilables and how to deal with the irreconcilables can follow once the avenues for bringing them to the table have exhausted,” he elaborated.

He proposed four points to help guide the reconciliation process that remained stalled since July last year when peace talks collapsed in Murree in July after the news of the death of their founder, Mullah Omar.

Since then the peace and reconciliation process has been lying suspended as main Taliban faction, led by Mullah Mansur Akhtar, stayed away from the peace talks till formation of the Quadrilateral Group.

Earlier, the High Peace Council and its predecessor, the Peace and Reconciliation Commission, persuaded hundreds of former Taliban insurgents to come over to the government side, but failed.

Political observers and analysts believe that peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan will not bear fruits until the Afghan government offers some attractive incentives to the insurgents to come to the negotiation table.


AFP adds: The planned withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan will hurt efforts to train and support local forces, the top US and NATO military commander in the war-torn country said Thursday.

General John Campbell, who is reaching the end of an 18-month tour in Afghanistan and is expected to retire, said plans to draw the current US presence of 9,800 troops down to 5,500 would leave "very limited" capacity to support local forces.

"To continue to build on the Afghan security forces ... we'd have to make some adjustments to that number," Campbell told the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington.

Afghan forces have just completed their first full year leading the fight against Taliban and other insurgent groups, with NATO and US forces remaining in a "train, advise and assist" role.

But the Afghans have suffered several major setbacks, including the brief Taliban capture of the city of Kunduz.

Further complicating the fragile security situation is the emergence of Islamic State jihadists in parts of the country.

They are trying to establish a base in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border.

"Afghanistan is at an inflection point," Campbell said. "If we do not make deliberate, measured adjustments, 2016 is at risk of being no better, and possibly worse, than 2015."

Campbell's replacement will be Lieutenant General John "Mick" Nicholson, assuming he is confirmed by the Senate.

During repeated questioning from committee chairman Senator John McCain about whether the troop level of 5,500 is sufficient, Campbell said he would carry out what he had been ordered to do.

"I believe the right thing to do is to prepare to go to 5,500 as I am ordered," he said, though he noted that he would prefer additional troop pull-outs to be "conditions-based" rather than predicated on arbitrary Washington timelines.

President Barack Obama in October announced that 9,800 US forces would remain in Afghanistan through most of 2016 - backtracking on an earlier pledge to pull all but 1,000 US troops from the country.

Campbell said the troop draw-down to 5,500 would likely begin in the fall.