‘US holding preliminary talks with Taliban’
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Last Updated: Sunday, June 19, 2011, 21:19
  
Washington: A day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai's assertion, the US on Sunday acknowledged that it is engaged in preliminary "outreach" talks with the Taliban along with some other countries to politically settle the decade- long conflict in the country.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the contacts were being made but that does not mean the US intends to ease the pressure on the Taliban at the war front.

"I think there has been outreach on the part of a number of countries, including the United States. I would say that these contacts are very preliminary at this point," Gates told the CNN in an interview, adding that these talks with the Taliban are being held by the State Department.

Karzai had said yesterday that foreign forces, especially the United States were engaged in talks with the Taliban and that they were "going on well" in what is believed to be the first official confirmation of such contacts.

Gates said today that these talks were not being held at the diplomatic level or at the level of the Secretary of State, and were a relatively new development of the past few weeks.

"I think first question we have is who represents Mullah Omar? Who really represents the Taliban? We don't want to end up having a conversation at some point with somebody who's basically a freelancer," Gates said referring to the nature of contacts.

"And I mean, my own view is that real reconciliation talks are not likely to be able to make a substantive headway until at least this winter. I think that the Taliban have to feel themselves under military pressure and begin to believe they can't win before they are willing to have a serious conversation," he said.

PTI


First Published: Sunday, June 19, 2011, 21:19


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