Afghan minister seeks stronger ties with UAE ahead of troops leaving

Jawed Ludin said his country was grateful for the UAE's role in Afghanistan's security, but his country would need more support from its Arabian Gulf allies

ABU DHABI // The UAE's continuing support for the Afghan peace process has been called for by Afghanistan's deputy foreign minister for political affairs.

During a visit to the capital yesterday, Jawed Ludin said his country was grateful for the UAE's role in Afghanistan's security, but his country would need more support from its Arabian Gulf allies after foreign troops leave.

"The UAE's support has been very important for Afghanistan's security in the past 10 years, but now we are moving towards the end of the international security forces' presence by 2014," he said.

"What we need to make sure of is that we curb the threat of terrorism and extremism, and the way [to do that] is to grow closer and forge stronger ties with our allies in the region politically."

Mr Ludin was in the capital yesterday for the trilateral committee meeting between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States.

It was attended by Pakistan's foreign secretary, Jalil Abbas Jilani, and the deputy US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, David Pearce.

The diplomats discussed security and political developments in Afghanistan and the peace process.

Mr Jilani said recent developments, such as the release of Taliban prisoners from Pakistani jails, proved his country's determination to bring stability to Afghanistan.

"Pakistan will do everything possible to bring peace ... to Afghanistan," he said. "In today's meeting we reviewed the progress we had made and we have gone over the developments to forge ahead with the peace process."

Mr Ludin said Qatar had agreed to set up an office in Doha for the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan High Peace Council.

Earlier this week, the Qatari prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani, said plans were under way to open the political office for the Taliban militia in Doha.

"Preparations are under way and it will happen as soon as possible," Sheikh Hamad said in Doha. "The opening of the office aims to facilitate dialogue between the Taliban and other political parties in Afghanistan."

He added it was "very important that a dialogue start before the withdrawal of US troops in 2014".

The US's Mr Pearce said this year would bring many changes.

"The year 2013 is going to be a very important year - a year of transition for Afghanistan," he said.

"Last week, presidents [Hamid] Karzai and [Barak] Obama had very detailed discussions on the matter and they both agreed that the security gains had to be matched by political progress, and they recommitted both nations to reconciliation."

Mr Pearce said the leaders agreed to open the Taliban office in Doha to facilitate negotiations with the support of Qatar.

This would be the second engagement of the US with the Taliban movement.

Washington began tentative moves towards peace with the group a year ago. But the Islamists broke off the talks a few months later, apparently over the failure of the US to free Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Now the US is negotiating its exit from its longest war, pledging continued support for the Afghan government against an undefeated insurgency.

Details of US involvement after Nato combat troops withdraw next year remain vague and are subject to a security agreement still under negotiation.

"President Obama has not made a decision with this matter as yet, but we still have ongoing discussions regarding the security involvement with Afghan officials," Mr Pearce said.

It had been expected that a residual force of up to 20,000 troops would remain in the country to help counter the Taliban, who were deposed in 2001 for harbouring the Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.