Robert Gates confirms US-Taliban talks in Afghanistan
Outgoing US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has confirmed that the US is holding “outreach” talks with members of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Mr Gates said talks were “preliminary” but that a political solution was the way “most of these wars end”.
It is the first time the US has acknowledged such contact and comes a day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai said peace talks had started.
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.
“There’s been outreach on the part of a number of countries, including the United States,” Mr Gates told CNN., without naming other countries involved.
“I would say that these contacts are very preliminary.
“My own view is that real reconciliation talks are not likely to be able to make any substantive headway until at least this winter.”
‘Time to engage’
Mr Gates, who will leave office at the end of the month, said the first step had been to ensure the contacts were genuine and influential Taliban members.
“We don’t want to end up having a conversation at some point with somebody who is basically a freelancer.”
Mr Karzai said on Saturday that peace talks involving Afghan officials, the US and other “foreign militaries” were taking place and were “going well”.
He gave no details as to whether the discussions involved Taliban officials with US authorities, or a go-between.
Shortly after, the Taliban said it carried out a number of suicide attacks in Kabul, killing nine people and injuring 12. Police said insurgents also attacked two convoys supplying Nato troops in the eastern province of Ghazni, killing four security guards