KABUL, Afghanistan — The former top United Nations official in Afghanistan said that recent arrests of high-ranking Taliban figures by Pakistan had severed important secret communications between the Taliban and the West meant to foster peace negotiations.
Kai Eide, the former special representative in Afghanistan for the United Nations secretary general, told the BBC in an interview broadcast on Friday that, for the past year, the United Nations had been quietly involved in early discussions with the Taliban in Dubai. He said those talks were upended by the arrests of senior Taliban leaders, including the group’s second in command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in February.
Mr. Eide, who stepped down earlier this month, said the arrests undermined efforts to start talks and to build trust that are necessary for substantive peace negotiations.
“The Pakistanis did not play the role that they should have played,” he said in the interview, which he confirmed to The New York Times.
There has been a swirl of often contradictory reports about the arrest of Mullah Baradar, and a wide range of American and international reactions to it. Some American officials have welcomed Pakistan’s new enthusiasm for hunting down Taliban leaders. Others have questioned Pakistan’s motivations in detaining Mullah Baradar, who was open to early discussions about peace negotiations.
On Friday, the spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, Abdul Basit, said Pakistan was committed to an Afghan-led process of reconciliation with the Taliban, according to Reuters. “Any other contentions, we believe, are a misrepresentation,” he said.
Mr. Eide’s emphasis on talks with the Taliban seems to underscore growing differences between the United States and some of its allies over the timing of negotiations.
The United Nations and Western European countries increasingly agree that ending the war in Afghanistan will require internationally supported agreements with the Taliban and that discussions need to start immediately. The Americans support negotiations on a slower timetable that would enable military operations to weaken the Taliban so they would be more vulnerable at the bargaining table.
The clearest enunciation of the European view was made by the British foreign secretary, David Miliband, who laid out a road map to negotiations with the Taliban in a speech earlier this month at M.I.T. He said the United Nations could serve as a neutral meeting ground for parties who distrusted one another.
Mr. Miliband did not eschew military efforts, but suggested focusing instead on setting conditions for negotiations. Mr. Eide’s overtures, which he described in the BBC interview as “talks about talks,” were an initial step in that direction.
Although Mr. Miliband ruled out discussions with those committed to Al Qaeda’s brand of militancy, he strongly endorsed an effort to reach out to almost everyone else, and without any preconditions. “Dialogue is not appeasement,” he said.
Mr. Eide and others said that Afghan government figures had already reached out to the Taliban. Other interlocutors have also been involved, including Saudi Arabia, which has hosted some initial discussions, according to senior members of the Karzai government.