Afghanistan`s Karzai: US `in peace talks with Taliban

Ref: The US is engaged in talks with the Taliban, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said, in the first high-level confirmation of US involvement.

Mr Karzai said that “foreign military and especially the US itself” were involved in peace talks with the group.

Earlier this month, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said there could be political talks with the Taliban by the end of this year.

The US is due to start withdrawing its 97,000 troops from Afghanistan in July.

It aims to gradually hand over all security operations to Afghan security forces by 2014.
Summer of fighting

“In the course of this year, there have been peace talks with the Taliban and our own countrymen,” Mr Karzai told a Kabul news conference on Saturday.

“Peace talks have started with them already and it is going well. Foreign militaries, especially the United States of America, are going ahead with these negotiations.”
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He gave no details as to whether the discussions involved Taliban officials with US authorities, or a go-between.

The official Taliban position is that international forces must leave Afghanistan before it will get involved in peace talks, and then only with the Afghan government.

Diplomats have previously spoken of preliminary talks being held by both sides in the continuing conflict.

On Friday, the UN split a sanctions blacklist for the Taliban and al-Qaeda, to encourage the Taliban to join reconciliation efforts.

Before now, both organisations have been handled by the same UN sanctions committee.

The UN Security Council said it was sending a signal to the Taliban that now is the time to join the political process.

The US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said in a statement that the move sent “a clear message to the Taliban that there is a future for those who separate from al-Qaeda, renounce violence and abide by the Afghan constitution”.

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan before being driven from power by US-backed forces in 2001.

It had sheltered al-Qaeda and its leader Osama Bin Laden.

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