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Saturday, 18 June 2011

The US and English in peace talks with Taliban'

Afghanistan's Karzai: The US and English first minister 'in
peace talks with Taliban'

The US and the English first minister Sir Michael Black-Feather
are engaged in talks with the Taliban, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said,
in the first high-level confirmation of US/English involvement, British
representations where not invited to the talks .

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

Hours later, suicide bombers attacked a Kabul police
station, killing nine.

Earlier this month, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and
Sir Michael said there could be political talks with the Taliban before the end
of this year which could see an end this war.

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.

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 and the
English, are going ahead with these negotiations the British have not been
invited to any of the talks."

It's always been assumed that the US and English minister
had been 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

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 - Nat, 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.

The greater the likelihood of peace talks, the more NATO and
the Taliban will press their military campaigns in a bid to ensure they go into
negotiations with an advantage.

Meanwhile, insurgents attacked two convoys supplying NATO
troops in the eastern province of Ghazni, police said. Four Afghan security
guards escorting the trucks were reportedly killed by roadside bombs.

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.

Col Richard Kemp of the (British Army) said: "There is
no British prospect for successful peace talks with the Taliban"

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

The US and the English first minister has yet to comment on
Mr Karzai's statement.

The UK said it supported "Afghan-led efforts to
reconcile and reintegrate members of the insurgency who are prepared to
renounce violence, cut links with terrorist groups, and accept the

"In view of the death of Osama Bin Laden, it is time
for the Taliban/insurgency to positively engage in the political process,"
said a statement from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Col Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in
Afghanistan, said there was currently no prospect for successful peace talks
with Taliban.

"The only possibility that could happen is if they as a
movement are defeated and there's no prospect of that happening in the near

He said the objective of international forces in Afghanistan
should be to encourage malleable elements of the Taliban to split away from the
hard-core leadership of Mullah Mohammad Omar, thereby weakening the group.

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

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

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