Kabul: The Taliban, fighting a vicious insurgency against the Afghan government and its Western supporters, on Wednesday denied they were involved in dialogue aimed at ending the long war.
The commander of foreign forces in Afghanistan, US General David Petraeus, said the insurgent leadership had made "overtures" to the government of President Hamid Karzai.
Petraeus also said mid-level commanders and grassroots fighters had expressed interest in coming in from the cold and joining a programme to reintegrate into mainstream society.
Karzai has set up a High Peace Council that he hopes will open talks with the Taliban, and yesterday named its 68 members, among them warlords and former militia leaders, many with reputations for human rights abuses.
But in a statement emailed to news organisations, the Taliban -- styling itself as the "Islamic emirate", as it did during its 1996-2001 rule -- rejected Petraeus`s assertions as "baseless".
"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, while rejecting the claim of General Petraeus, believe that such baseless claims by the enemy portray their jittery and fiasco in face of the mujahideen," it said.
"How can it be possible for the officials of the Islamic emirate to initiate clandestine contacts with the powerless and stooge government while they have already turned down the misleading demands and proposals of the weak Kabul administration for commencement of negotiation," it said in Dari, Pashto and English.
The Taliban launched their insurgency, now dragging towards its tenth year, after their regime was overthrown in a US-led invasion in late 2001.
This year, with the deployment of extra forces and a concomitant increase in battlefield engagements, has been the deadliest for foreign troops, now numbering more than 152,000.