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Afghanistan looks to Pakistan for help with Taliban

As Pakistan deals with the fallout from Tuesday's assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani met Wednesday with Pakistan's military chief to help nudge the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Ahead of a meeting with Pakistani officials in Islamabad, former Afghan President and chief of a new peace council Burhanuddin Rabbani (l.) prays with his delegation for Pakistan's governor of Punjab province Salman Taseer, assassinated on Tuesday.

Faisal Mahmood/Reuters

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A high-level peace delegation to Islamabad by a former president of Afghanistan has been overshadowed by Pakistani political turmoil, including the assassination Tuesday of a top governor and a major breakup in the ruling coalition.

But former President Burhanuddin Rabbani still met Wednesday with Pakistan’s military chief, Ashfaq Kayani, and will meet with the country’s president and prime minister in the next three days, highlighting the official visit’s importance to the two countries.

Mr. Rabbani’s mission is to get Pakistan’s help in nudging the Taliban to the negotiating table. That involves convincing Islamabad that those Afghans who would sit across the table from the Taliban – power brokers like Rabbani who have historical ties to India – are friendly to Pakistan.

“[The delegation] will be encouraging all counterparts in Pakistan to … ask what help they can give to try to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table,” says Michael Semple, an expert on the negotiations who is currently in Islamabad. “I think it’s an indication that both Kabul and Washington acknowledge that the involvement of Pakistan is key.”

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