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Karzai Announces Council for Talks with Taliban


Afghan President Hamid Karzai has announced the formation of an Afghan council to pursue peace talks with the Taliban.

A statement from Mr. Karzai's office Saturday said the creation of the High Peace Council was a "significant step toward peace talks." It said members of the council would be named later, but would include jihadi leaders, influential figures and women.

The idea for the panel was approved last June at a national peace conference, or jirga, in Kabul attended by Afghan leaders and tribal elders. The plan involves offering money and job incentives to insurgents who are willing to renounce violence and sever all ties to terrorist networks.

So far the Taliban has shown little interest in the talks, which Mr. Karzai has billed as the best strategy for reconciliation.

The announcement came amid more insurgent violence, as 10 people were killed in attacks across the country.

Officials say four Afghan policemen and three civilians were killed when a bomb mounted on a motorcycle exploded in Afghanistan's northern province of Kunduz.

In the southern province of Kandahar, another three civilians were killed and 13 wounded in a suicide car bomb attack on a NATO convoy. There were no immediate reports of any NATO injuries.

Separately, the deputy commander of NATO forces said commanders were perhaps overly optimistic this year predicting quick success in taking back key Taliban strongholds.

British Lieutenant General Nick Parker told reporters Saturday that he had been "a little too positive" in some of the statements he gave before a major offensive in the city of Marjah in Helmand province earlier this year.

Troops launched an offensive there last February to drive out the Taliban, but have since faced stiff resistance in the insurgent hotbed, making the establishment of a stable government difficult.

Parker said it was "nobody's fault" that the Marjah campaign had gone slower than expected, but was simply a product of the "complexity of the environment" troops are working in.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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