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Karzai Announces Peace Talks with Taliban

Afghan President Hamid Karzai (file photo)
Afghan President Hamid Karzai (file photo)
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Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the United States and other foreign powers are holding talks with the Taliban aimed at ending the nearly decade-long war.

Mr. Karzai's announcement Saturday to reporters in Kabul is thought to be the first official comment on U.S. involvement in such negotiations.  However, the U.S. Embassy declined to comment.

The United States is set to start withdrawing combat troops from Afghanistan in the coming weeks.  U.S. President Barack Obama already has met with his top commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, to discuss plans for the drawdown, but so far, he has not announced how many troops initially will leave the country.

Afghan security forces are slated to take control of all security operations by 2014.  Afghan and coalition forces continue to face stiff resistance in the Taliban's southern strongholds, as well as an influx of foreign fighters in the eastern part of the country.

NATO said three of its service members were killed Saturday, two in southern Afghanistan and one in the east. French President Nicolas Sarkozy's office said one of the soldiers killed in the south was French.

The Taliban has launched a series of brazen assaults on the capital, where Afghan forces are in charge of security.  The latest attack occurred Saturday, near the presidential palace and shortly after Mr. Karzai's press conference.

Officials say three militants armed with suicide vests and guns stormed a Kabul police station, killing nine people.

The Taliban claimed responsibility.  Authorities say four security force members and five civilians died in the attack.  Four police officers were wounded.  None of the attackers survived.  At least one wore an Afghan army uniform.

The Taliban has consistently rejected any peace talks as long as foreign forces are in Afghanistan.

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