1) Foreign Policy’s “South Asia Daily“:
Afghan officials and Taliban meet for talks
An Afghan government delegation met with Taliban officials in Islamabad for the first time on Tuesday, according to Afghan, Pakistani, and Western officials (NYT, WSJ, Dawn, Pajhwok). The meeting, which took place just outside of Islamabad in Murree, was one of the highest-level contacts between the Taliban and Afghan officials in recent years, signaling a possible beginning to a formal peace process. The United States and China took part in the meeting as observers. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that the two parties would meet again at the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, in two weeks. “The participants agreed to continue talks to create an environment conducive for peace and reconciliation process,” the statement said…
2) Defense One’s “D-Brief“:
Peace negotiators from Afghanistan, the Taliban and Pakistan’s foreign ministry at a mountain resort 90 miles north of Islamabad last night [July 7] agreed to hold more peace talks, WaPo reported. Those get underway in two weeks, after Ramadan.
“No sooner had the talks begun than it became apparent that the Taliban were divided about whether to engage in a process facilitated by Pakistan,” The New York Times reports in this no-surprise take on the lack of coordination among the Taliban and claims the talks have in fact been hijacked by Pakistan’s intelligence service, ISI.
The Taliban are still trying to get their blows in where they can, yesterday dispatching a suicide bomber to a NATO convoy for the second time in a week. No coalition casualties resulted from the attack. Shortly afterward, Afghan police killed two attackers after another suicide bomber set off his vest in a failed attempt to storm an Afghan intelligence office in Kabul.
U.S. and Afghan officials now say ISIS has a toehold in three Afghan provinces, The Hill reported yesterday. That, after Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar announced his support for the group over the weekend.
More on ISIS and Hekmatyar:
Afghan Terrorist Group to Back ISIS Against Taliban
One of Afghanistan’s largest insurgent organizations is joining forces with the Islamic State group to battle the Taliban for control of the country, prompting the Afghanistan’s intelligence agency to create a special unit to combat the new threat.
Former Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of Hezb-e-Islami and a major player through more than 40 years of Afghan wars, has ordered his forces to back Islamic State efforts to expand its influence in the country, according to a statement on the group’s website.
“The Taliban views the Hezb-e-Islami as their top enemy” Hekmatyar said in the statement. “If there is fight between the Taliban of the Emirate and Islamic State, then support the Islamic State because the Taliban are the sworn enemies of the Hezb-e-Islami,” he said.
Hebz-i-Islami, which operates mainly in the north and east is considered the second-most powerful terrorist organizations in Afghanistan behind the Taliban, responsible for carrying out many terrorist and insider attacks against U.S. and NATO forces…