BRUSSELS: NATO sometimes allows Taliban leaders to travel to Kabul to allow them to hold tentative peace talks with the Afghan government, an alliance official said. As part of efforts to support Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s bid to launch peace negotiations, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force has helped secure safe passage for Taliban figures travelling to the capital, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“These are contacts that have taken place in Kabul. It would be extremely difficult for a senior Taliban member to get to Kabul without being killed or captured if ISAF were not witting, and ISAF is witting,” he said.
The official did not offer more details but US commanders have said previously that coalition forces have at times “facilitated” contacts between insurgents and the Kabul government, although the talks are led solely by the Afghans.
Apart from insurgent leaders operating in neighbouring Pakistan, most senior Taliban figures are based in the Pashtun-dominated south, where US-led forces operate a major airfield in Kandahar. “These are in the very preliminary stages of discussions. So you would not yet characterise this by any means as a negotiation, these are preliminary discussions,” the official said of the talks.
Karzai confirmed in a US television interview Sunday that his administration has been holding talks with the Taliban “for quite some time” to try to end the nine-year war.
Afghanistan’s former president Burhanuddin Rabbani on Saturday was elected chairman of a new peace council, a Karzai brainchild set up to broker an end to the war. The Taliban, toppled in 2001 after a US-led invasion, have said publicly they will not enter into a dialogue with the government until all 152,000 coalition troops in the country leave.-SANA