Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants to convene a jirga, or gathering of the Pashtun tribes living on both sides of the Pakistani-Afghan border, in an effort to stem Taliban violence and contain the spread of Islamic extremism. The initiative has generated apprehension in Afghanistan, as many officials and experts believe such a meeting might serve merely to accelerate the pace of the country's "Talibanization."
Karzai is pushing for the meeting to take place before the end of the year. A Joint Afghan-Pakistani Commission could be set up with the help of the United Nations to develop criteria for participation in the Jirga, the modalities of the meeting and other details, he suggested. Karzai and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf would attend the gathering.
Karzai first raised his plan at a dinner both leaders had in Washington in late September that was hosted by President George W. Bush. At first, Musharraf hesitated at the suggestion, but after Bush pledged US government support for the meeting, the Pakistani leader gave his tentative approval.
Ahmed Rashid is a journalist and author of the book "Taliban: Militant Islam and Fundamentalism in Central Asia."
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