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Saturday, June 18, 2011

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

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.
Hours later, sucicide bombers attacked a Kabul police station, killing two.
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."

It's always been assumed that the US is reaching out directly to the Taliban, but this is the first high-level official confirmation.
The exact identity of the Americans' negotiating partner is not known whether they are talking to a go-between or to somebody with authority.
Neither is it known what is on the table: The assumption is that these are talks about talks rather than something more substantive.
No one should expect quick results from whatever contacts may be taking place. The prediction from all sides - Nato, the Afghan government and the Taliban itself - is for another summer of hard fighting ahead, and probably many more summers after that.
He gave no details as to whether the discussions involved Taliban officials with US authorities, or a go-between.
Shortly after the announcement, at least two suicide bombers attacked a police station near the financial ministry in the Afghan capital.
Mohammad Ayub Salangi, Kabul's police chief, told the BBC two police officers had been killed in the attack, which was ongoing.
''A group of suicide attackers got inside police district one," he said. "We have surrounded the area.''
Finance ministry employees said the ministry was under lockdown.
"We can hear sporadic gunshots," one employee told the BBC. "Guards at the front of the ministry have also fired at attackers who wanted to get inside the ministry."
Sanctions list split The Taliban's official position regarding peace talks is that it will only negotiate once international forces leave Afghanistan, and that it will only talk to 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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