Pakistan and the Taliban Making Peace? Don’t Hold Your Breath

Both sides are making preliminary noises about peace talks, and the U.S. seems to have cut back on drone strikes, which helps, but it's far too early to say how effective negotiations will be

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Members of a committee from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan speak with media representatives in Islamabad

As the standoff between the U.S. and Afghanistan continues over a post-2014 security agreement, pending peace talks in neighboring Pakistan seem to be stuck in a holding pattern as well.

Local media reported that members of a government-appointed committee were scheduled to meet on Feb. 4 to discuss the peace process with intermediaries of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a move that seemed to signal that long-awaited talks may soon begin. But the Express Tribune later said the committee appointed by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is not yet ready for even a preliminary dialogue.

That both parties have appointed negotiators to try to move stalled talks forward is certainly a step in the right direction. (The Pakistani Taliban had reportedly nominated cricketer turned politico Imran Khan as one of its intermediaries, but Khan declined the honor.) Sharif was elected in May on a campaign platform that included a promise to initiate peace talks, an effort that was derailed in November when TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a U.S. drone strike and his successor vowed revenge.

Yesterday’s stalled meeting was followed by a report in the Washington Post that the U.S. has cut down on drone strikes in Pakistan to allow peace talks to proceed. (The paper also reported that a U.S. official denied any informal agreement has been reached.) Sharif, for his part, has pursued his policy of peace despite a spate of fresh Taliban attacks on civilians. The TTP leadership, at least, has said it is also ready to try again. But even if the U.S. has, in fact, eased up on drone strikes, it remains to be seen whether the Taliban leaders will be able to get all of their ranks on board.