ISLAMABAD, Aug 26 (Reuters) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai arrived in Pakistan Monday for talks expected to focus on what happens when most foreign troops pull out of his country next year and whether or not the Afghan Taliban, in power from 1996 and 2001, will have a role.
Pakistan is considered crucial to peace talks with the Islamist group whose sanctuaries straddle the mountainous border between the South Asian neighbours.
Karzai has said he will ask Pakistan for the release of high-profile Taliban prisoners into Afghan government custody.
The Taliban have refused to negotiate with the Afghan government so far, accusing them of being a puppet of the United States. Afghanistan has often accused elements of Pakistan’s security services of aiding the Afghan Taliban.
The chairman of the High Peace Council, a body created by Karzai in 2010 to broker peace with the Taliban, is accompanying him on the trip.
Karzai has made 19 trips to Pakistan but this will be the first opportunity to meet Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif since Sharif’s landslide election win in May.
“President Karzai’s visit will impart a strong impetus to ongoing efforts for an enhanced relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” said a statement from Pakistan’s foreign office on Sunday.