Pakistani Taliban, government in peace talks
Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman Mehsud, before the Pakistani Army launched the South Waziristan offensive.
A Pakistani Taliban commander confirmed that the government and the Taliban are conducting peace talks. From Reuters:
The discussions are focused on the South Waziristan region on the Afghan border and could be expanded to try to reach a comprehensive deal if progress is made.
The Taliban, who are close to al Qaeda, made several demands, including the release of prisoners and the withdrawal of Pakistani forces from South Waziristan, said the commander.
An ethnic Pashtun tribal mediator described the talks as "very difficult." Pakistani military and government officials were not immediately available for comment.
"Yes, we have been holding talks, but this is just an initial phase. We will see if there is a breakthrough," said the senior Taliban commander, who asked not to be identified.
"Right now, this is at the South Waziristan level. If successful, we can talk about a deal for all the tribal areas," he said, referring to Pashtun lands along the Afghan border.
According to The Washington Post, South Waziristan leader Waliur Rehman Mehsud is leading the talks for the Taliban.
None of this should come as a surprise. The Pakistani government put out feelers for peace talks earlier this fall, and both Waliur Rehman and Faqir Mohammed responded favorably [see LWJ report, Pakistani Taliban signal willingness to conduct peace talks].
Pakistan has signed numerous peace agreements with the Taliban in the past decade, only to have them collapse. The peace agreements allowed the Taliban to expand their areas of control in the tribal areas, and even into settled districts like Swat. The deals have also extended al Qaeda's reach in the tribal areas.
US officials have criticized Pakistan for seeking peace with their Taliban, yet have pursued the same policy in Afghanistan, thinking that the Afghan branch will abide by terms the Pakistani branch never intended to honor.