One point that seems to have been surprisingly neglected by the media is the penchant for Pakistan to release high-value Taliban leaders. Last week, Asia Times reported that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the Taliban’s most senior officials, second perhaps only to Mullah Omar, had been released. This release is not a-typical, just earlier this year, Baradar’s replacement Abdul Qayum Zakir was captured and released by Pakistani security forces. Several other high-level Taliban have been captured and subsequently released to rejoin the insurgency as documented in this April Newsweek article. Where is the outrage in the press, congress, and the public sphere that our ostensible ally is clearly acting to undermine the war effort? It is absolutely astounding that we continue to look the other way as Pakistan openly aids and abets the enemy.
On a more practical note, any deal that tries to ignore or sideline Pakistan is unlikely to succeed since Pakistani Inter-services Intelligence (ISI) will work tirelessly to undermine any reconciliation effort that they cannot influence. This fact leads me to be more skeptical of the current “peace talks” especially when I read in the New York Times that Mullah Omar is being blocked from talks because of his ties to the ISI. Incorporating Pakistan into the peace process will not be easy. Afghan expert, Matt Waldman, who recently conducted research on negotiations with the Taliban, argued that many Taliban field commanders have disdain for the Quetta Shura due in large part to its ties to the ISI. Furthermore, there is a worry in certain quarters that Pakistan is infringing on Afghan sovereignty. These concerns notwithstanding, Pakistan should be involved in the talks if for no other reason than that it will incentivize them away from disrupting the reconciliation effort.