“Peace talks are going on with the Taliban. The foreign military and especially the U.S. itself is going ahead with these negotiations,” President Karzai said in a recent news conference. The US embassy in Kabul declined to comment.
There are hopes that negotiations will help provide the political underpinning for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the discussions are still not at the stage where they can be a deciding factor. The closest anyone in the Obama administration has come to publicly acknowledging the on-going talks was when defense secretary Robert Gates said that there could be political talks with the Taliban by the end of this year, if Nato’s military advances on the ground were sustained.
Afghanistan’s neighbors are nervous about plans for a strategic partnership with the US, which may include long-term bases on Afghan soil, Karzai also warned.
“The issue of strategic partnership deal has caused tensions with our neighbours,” Karzai said. “When we sign this strategic partnership, at the same time we must have peace in Afghanistan.”
There are also many Afghans, among them women’s and civil society activists, who fear talks with insurgents could undo much of the progress they have made since the Taliban government was ousted in 2001.
President recently announced that the U.S. military will begin withdrawing 10,000 troops from Afghanistan next month, with 23,000 expected to leave by the end of 2012.
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