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Officials: Afghan Peace Council Slowly Moving Toward Official Talks with Taliban

  • Sean Maroney

Gen. David Petraeus, top US and NATO commander (L), and Ambassador Mark Sedwill, NATO Senior Civilian Rep. in Afghanistan address discuss 'The International Mission in Afghanistan' at the United Services Institute in London, 15 Oct 2010

Officials with Afghanistan's new peace council say they are in the early stages of beginning a process to negotiate peace with Taliban militants. This comes a day after the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, said NATO has facilitated the safe passage of Taliban leaders to Kabul for talks with the Afghan government.

The spokesman for Afghanistan's High Council for Peace tells VOA there have been "unofficial" discussions between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Bryali Helali says these talks have been in Kabul, other areas of Afghanistan and even other countries. He says Taliban officials are protected during these discussions.

"The protection was provided not only by the international security forces, but as well as the government of Afghanistan," said Helali. "This is something routine that is happening in Afghanistan."

Helali's comments Saturday come a day after the top commander for the international forces in Afghanistan, U.S. General David Petraeus, said NATO is facilitating the safe passage of Taliban leaders to Kabul as part of the alliance's support for President Hamid Karzai's reconciliation efforts.

Officials have not released details of any security arrangements.

The Taliban have not commented since Wednesday, when they issued a statement categorically denying any contact with the Afghan government.

Bakhtar Aminzai is the president of the National Peace Jirga of Afghanistan, an association of students, professors, lawyers, clerics and others in the country. He tells VOA in Kabul that he does not believe the world will ever see the Afghan government and Taliban leadership at the same table while the war continues.

"In Afghani communities, it is impossible to talk direct enemy to enemy. In Afghan tradition, we have totally independent people between two parties," said Aminzai.

He says he believes the most effective mediators between the two sides will be either the United Nations or fellow Islamic countries.

Afghan officials are urging the people to be patient, saying there still is a long way to go for any peace.

This year has been the deadliest for international forces since the start of the nine-year war. More than 2,000 foreign troops have died since 2001.