Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Saturday that the US is engaged in talks with the Taliban about a possible peace settlement to the nearly decade-long war in his country.
The Taliban officially say they will only negotiate once foreign troops leave Afghanistan
President Hamid Karzai said on Saturday that the US and other powers are in talks with the Taliban over a possible political settlement in Afghanistan. It is the first high-level official confirmation of US involvement in negotiations after nearly ten years of war.
"In the course of this year, there have been peace talks with the Taliban and our own countrymen," Karzai told a news conference in Kabul. "Peace talks have started with them already and it is going well. Foreign militaries, especially the United States of America, are going ahead with these negotiations."
"The peace negotiations between (the) Afghan government and the Taliban movement are not yet based on a certain agenda or physical (meetings), there are contacts established," he added.
Attack in Kabul
Hours after Karzai's comments, suicide bombers attacked a Kabul police station. The Afghan interior ministry said nine people were killed. The Taliban said they carried out the attack.
Diplomats and officials asserted that talks are at an early stage and the government and insurgents had not yet met, but Karzai's remarks are proof that the United States is pushing towards an end to the conflict.
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has openly pushed for peace talks
For months, the Afghan government has openly attempted to enter into negotiations with the Taliban, but the US Embassy in Kabul has so far declined to comment on their role in peace talks.
During a visit to Kabul earlier this month, however, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested that there could be talks with the Taliban by the end of the year if foreign troops make sufficient gains.
Karzai's comments come a day after the United Nations Security Council agreed to split sanctions for the Taliban and al Qaeda figures in order to encourage the Taliban to join reconciliation efforts.
This act sends "a clear message to the Taliban that there is a future for those who separate from al Qaeda, renounce violence and abide by the Afghan constitution," Susan Rice, UN envoy for the United States said.
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.
Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Sonia Phalnikar