‘US holding preliminary talks with Taliban’

US acknowledged that it is engaged in preliminary "outreach" talks with Taliban.

Last Updated: Jun 19, 2011, 21:19 PM IST

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

"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.