US hailsTaliban arrests despite UN criticism
US envoy Richard Holbrooke has praised the arrests of Taliban leaders, despite a former UN envoy's claim that they disrupt reconciliation efforts with the group.
A slew of senior Taliban chiefs have reportedly been captured in Pakistan in recent weeks. Among them was Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, captured last month in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi in what US media said was a joint operation with American spies.
"We are extremely gratified that the Pakistani government has apprehended the number two person in the Taliban, and he is where he belongs. And many other people have been picked up or eliminated, and this is putting much more pressure on the Taliban," said Holbrooke, Washington's envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"And this is a good thing for the simplest of reasons. It is good for the military efforts that are underway in Afghanistan."
He declined to comment on claims by Kai Eide, the ex-UN special representative to Afghanistan, who said the arrests stopped a secret United Nations-Taliban channel of communications.
Holbrooke told reporters he had been aware of the channel, although Obama administration officials had not been involved.
He recalled that President Barack Obama has publicly backed Afghan-led reconciliation, but made a distinction between "reintegration" and "reconciliation."
The envoy also lent support to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's plans for a reconciliation program with all Afghans, including those fighting with the Taliban.
Eide, who stepped down from the post earlier this month, confirmed for the first time he had been holding talks with senior Taliban figures and said they started around a year ago.
Face-to-face talks were held with "senior figures in the Taliban leadership" in Dubai and other locations, the diplomat told the BBC, adding that the movement's leader Mullah Omar had given the process the green light.
But he said the channel was disrupted with the arrest of Taliban commanders in Pakistan, a move the United States has welcomed as a sign the country is increasingly willing to track down Afghan militant leaders.
Eide said the detentions had a "negative" effect on attempts to find a political solution to the eight-year-old Afghan war and suggested Pakistan had deliberately tried to undermine the negotiations.
He noted there were now many channels of communication with the Taliban, including with Karzai representatives.
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