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Petraeus: Taliban Allowed Into Kabul

Gen. David Petraeus, top U.S 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.

The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, said Friday that Western troops have allowed Taliban leaders into Kabul in order to talk with the government. Petraeus was speaking in London.

General Petraeus was speaking at the Royal United Services Institute in London. He said "several very senior" Taliban leaders have reached out to the Afghan government and, he said, to other countries engaged in Afghanistan.

He said in order to facilitate talks, western troops have allowed Taliban leaders to enter Kabul.

"Indeed in certain respects we do facilitate that, given that needless to say it would not be the easiest of tasks for a senior Taliban commander to enter Afghanistan and make his way to Kabul," he said. "If ISAF were not... aware of it and therefore allows it to take place."

Petraeus said allowing the Taliban leaders into Kabul was part of the U.S. and NATO forces' support for Afghan President Hamid Karzai's reconciliation efforts with the Taliban.

Petraeus said NATO-led forces have made progress in Afghanistan during the course of the past 18 months.

His visit to London comes in the same week that it's emerged a British citizen held captive by the Taliban may accidentally have been killed by a U.S. grenade.

It was initially thought Linda Norgrove's captors had killed her during a rescue attempt.

Petraeus said Friday the incident is being investigated. But he said close viewing of video taken during the operation suggested a U.S. soldier may have caused the explosion.

"They did achieve tactical surprise and then obviously the outcome was not what we had all sought," said Petraeus. "It was in the course of pulling the video off a hard drive which provides a sharper image then that which is fed through and that you watch on the ops center floor, it was very clear that there was a throwing motion and an explosion that followed that and that a grenade had been employed."

A military inquiry is to investigate how Norgrove, a 36 year old aid worker, died.

Petraeus' visit also comes as the British government undergoes a major review of its defense spending. The government is trying to reduce a record deficit. But Petraeus said Friday he had received assurances that operations in Afghanistan would not be effected.

"I have repeatedly received assurances that the support for Afghanistan is iron-clad, that it is fenced if you will and that it will be forthcoming."

Britain has 9,500 troops in Afghanistan. Prime Minister David Cameron has said he hopes to withdraw British troops by 2015.