Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Karzai confirms talks with Taliban

Hamid Karzai confirmed that his government has been in informal talks with the Taliban on securing peace

Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai has confirmed that his government has been in informal talks with the Taliban on securing peace in Afghanistan "for quite some time" - the latest in a series of high-level acknowledgements of contacts with the insurgent group.

Unofficial discussions have been held with Taliban representatives over an extended period, Mr Karzai told CNN's Larry King Live.

He said: "We have been talking to the Taliban as countryman to countryman. Not as a regular official contact with the Taliban with a fixed address, but rather unofficial personal contacts have been going on for quite some time."

Afghan presidential spokesman Waheed Omar has previously said that the administration was in contact "for the past couple of years" with "different levels of Afghan Taliban wanting to reconnect with the government".

It was not immediately clear if the Karzai interview was the first time the president had acknowledged the talks directly.

Nato's top commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, has also said the military coalition was aware of overtures made by Taliban insurgents at the highest levels to the Afghan government.

The drumbeat about talks comes as support for a drawn-out military push in Afghanistan is waning in the US and with other Nato allies as the war enters its 10th year.

Sending thousands more US troops this summer to the country's south has yet to show significantly increased security in the Taliban heartland.

The Afghan government said it hopes to make talks more structured with a "peace council" which will aim for formal discussions with insurgent groups.

On Tuesday, former president Burhanuddin Rabbani was named chief of the council. Mr Karzai praised their choice by the 70-member group, saying Mr Rabbani's leadership would be "good for Afghanistan".

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