Afghan official delays Pakistan trip amid tension

August 8, 2012 - 11:44 AM

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The head of the Afghan council for peace talks with the Taliban has postponed a trip to Pakistan, officials said Wednesday. The delay comes during tension over cross-border shelling that Afghanistan blames on the Pakistani military.

Salahuddin Rabbani was scheduled to arrive in Islamabad on Wednesday to reach out to Taliban leaders based there.

Top leaders of the Taliban movement that ruled Afghanistan for a decade fled to Pakistan following the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that toppled their regime. Militants allied to the hard-line Islamists launch attacks from both sides of the border against both Afghan and Pakistani government forces.

A member of the Afghanistan High Peace Council that Rabbani leads said the trip has been postponed for about two weeks, until after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan is over.

Ismail Qasimyar said more preparations are needed. He did not link the delay to the border issue.

Another council member, Hameed Mubarez, said it would be inappropriate for a delegation to go to Pakistan while the border tensions remain unresolved, even though he would not say whether the issue was the official reason for the trip's dealy.

"At a time when Pakistan keeps firing rockets into Afghanistan ... it is not good for any member of the High Peace Council to make a trip to Pakistan. First, these issues should be solved between both countries, then the High Peace Council can go there to speak about peace," Mubarez said.

Several Afghan civilians have been reported killed in cross-border shelling that has inflamed Afghan sentiment.

Pakistan denies deliberately shelling Afghan territory but says it responds to militant attacks along the border.

The border issue contributed to the last week's parliamentary disqualification of Afghanistan's defense minister and interior minister after lawmakers complained of a weak government response to the shelling.