Let's talk it out
The 27 participating parties in an All Parties Conference (APC) called by the Awami National Party on Thursday agreed to engage in peace talks with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants if they are willing to lay down their arms and accept the law and Constitution of Pakistan (Dawn, NYT, ET). In response to the APC announcement, TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said the group called an "important meeting of the shura and will respond by 1PM Friday [about] what we are going to do next" (Dawn, ET).
Any hope of a positive development was quashed when Ehsan read a statement from the shura council on Friday, calling the APC's announcement "nothing but old sentences and stories," and accusing "certain American-brand journalists" of dismissing the TTP's willingness to negotiate as insincere (ET).
Indeed, many analysts in Pakistan believe the TTP's calls for peace talks are an attempt by the group to obtain concessions from the government and regain prominence in the tribal regions, where internal rifts, splinter groups, and waning support from local tribesmen have ravaged the TTP (AP). Some experts on Pakistan's militant groups call the offer to negotiate a "ploy" and a diversion from the internal difficulties the TTP is experiencing.
U.S. military deaths are falling in Afghanistan as the responsibility for security is shifted to Afghan forces, but this does not necessarily mean that the NATO coalition has made progress against insurgents in Afghanistan (LAT). Afghan troops now carry out over 80 percent of the combat missions being conducted, and control the parts of the country where at least three-quarters of the Afghan population lives.
President Barack Obama's announcement on Tuesday that 34,000 U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan over the next year has sparked comparisons to the U.S. withdrawal strategy in Iraq, along with concern in Congress that a sharp drawdown will result in increased violence and instability (AP).
-- Jennifer Rowland