US supports Afghan peace talks

As the newly set up Afghan peace council kicks off its work Wednesday to broker an end to the war with Taliban, the US has extended its support to President Hamid Karzai`s plan to hold talks with the militant group.

Last Updated: Oct 13, 2010, 11:51 AM IST

Washington: As the newly set up Afghan peace council kicks off its work Wednesday to broker an end to the war with Taliban, the US has extended its support to President
Hamid Karzai`s plan to hold talks with the militant group.

"This is an Afghan-led process. We will support that
process. But ultimately, you`re talking about the composition
of the political structure and civil society within
Afghanistan, and this is rightly decisions for the Afghan
Government and Afghan people to make," State Department
spokesman P J Crowley told reporters.

In Kabul, a spokesman of President Hamid Karzai said
that the 70-member High Council for Peace would start its work
on Wednesday, hoping that it would succeed in ending the war
with Taliban and bringing lasting peace to the country.

Crowley also said the US is willing to support removal
of UN sanctions against more Taliban leaders so as to give
further boost to the peace process but insisted that this
should not be linked to the closer of the Guantanamo detention
center as suggested by some peace council members.

"Well, on an ongoing basis we are evaluating
modifications to the individuals on the sanctions list at the
UN. We`ve made some adjustments during the course of this
year. And as we work through issues and in collaboration with
the UN and other members of the Security Council, that is
certainly possible," he said.

"We have returned a significant number of individuals
at Guantanamo to their countries or to third countries based
on our assessment of the dangers that they pose to the US and
to others. But I would not connect our ongoing activity to
work to close the facility at Guantanamo with the efforts at
reconciliation and reintegration in Afghanistan," he said.

In an interview to the CNN earlier, Karzai
acknowledged that he was holding unofficial talks with the
Taliban for quite some time and was willing to negotiate with senior Taliban leaders as soon as possible.
"We have been talking to the Taliban as countryman to
countryman talk in that manner, not as a regular official
contact with the Taliban with effects to address, but rather
unofficial personal contacts have been going on for quite some
time. Now that the peace council has come into existence,
these talks will go on and will go on officially and more
rigorously, I hope," Karzai said.
"No official contacts with a known entity that reports
to a body of Taliban that comes back and reports to us
regularly, that hasn`t happened yet. We hope we can begin that
as soon as possible. But contacts, of course, have been there
between various elements of the Afghan government at the level
of community and also at political level," Karzai said in
response to a question.

PTI