Pakistan appears to be backing the Afghan government's goal of transforming the Taliban insurgency into a political movement.

The country is seen as critical to US and Afghan efforts to promote peace in Afghanistan, a task that is gaining urgency as NATO troops prepare to withdraw by the end of 2014.

After the withdrawal, security responsibilities will be handed over to government forces.

Pakistan - long accused of backing Afghan insurgents - appears now willing to put its weight behind reconciliation efforts, which are still in early stages and vulnerable to factionalism.

Mutual suspicions between Afghanistan and its nuclear-armed neighbour have hampered efforts to tackle militancy in one of the world's most explosive regions.

Pakistan has long been seen as determined to block the influence of old rival India in Afghanistan.

The country has been believed to be quietly supporting the Taliban in the hope they would exclude from power rival, pro-India Afghan factions.

Afghanistan and Pakistan appear to now agree that it is in their interests to work more closely together, with the NATO deadline looming.

Failure to do so could embolden Taliban hardliners determined to re-impose their austere version of Islam.

Recent face-to-face talks between senior Taliban members and Afghan officials in France were an "enormously helpful" step in building a wider environment for peace.

The talks included former members of the Northern Alliance faction, which fought the Taliban for years, and Afghan peace negotiators.

The Taliban say they were represented by prominent figures in the movement such as Shahabuddin Delawar, from its political office, which is based in Qatar.

Until now, the Taliban and Afghan officials only made indirect contacts.

Elsewhere, an Afghan policewoman shot dead a US forces member in the chief of police's compound in Kabul.

Police and NATO said it was another "insider attack" that is bound to raise troubling questions about the direction of an unpopular war.

It appeared to be the first time that a woman member of Afghanistan's security forces shot a member of the Western coalition force supporting and training Afghanistan's military and police.

The policewoman approached the American adviser as he was walking in the heavily guarded police chief's compound in a bustling area of the capital.

She then drew a pistol and shot him once.