The conflicting claims are a clear sign of splits within the movement, which could make it harder for Islamabad to strike a deal to end the violent insurgency gripping the country — although, possibly, easier to suppress it militarily.
The Pakistani government meanwhile said that the U.S. vacated an air base that had been used by American drones. Islamabad had ordered the Americans out in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes last month which accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Pakistan’s conflict with its branch of the Taliban is closely linked to the American-led war in Afghanistan. Past informal cease-fires have made it easier for Afghan militants sheltered by their Pakistani counterparts to attack U.S. forces across the border.
Consequently, while the U.S. has pushed for peace negotiations between the Afghan branch of the Taliban and Kabul, the possibility of similar talks between Islamabad and the Pakistani branch could stoke concern in Washington.
From Islamabad’s perspective, rising anger against the Americans increases the incentive to cut a deal with the Taliban, as many blame the conflict on their government’s alliance with Washington.
However, the government’s ability to negotiate with the clandestine militant movement will be made vastly more complicated by the Taliban’s murky command structure, and the difficulty in telling whether commanders who say they are willing to make peace actually have any authority on the ground.
Maulvi Faqir Mohammed, who has been recognized by both militants and officials as the deputy chief of the Pakistani Taliban, had said on Saturday that the group was in negotiations with the government. Mohammed, the first named commander to confirm talks, said an agreement to end the country’s brutal four-year insurgency was within striking distance.
Spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan denied Mohammed’s claims, saying there would be no negotiations until the government imposed Islamic law, or Shariah, in the country. The group says it wants to install a hardline Islamist regime.
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