US is talking to Taliban, Afghan president says
The United States is involved in talks with the Taliban, almost 10 years into the insurgency, on a possible political settlement, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday.
"The talks with the Taliban and others have begun and God willing it goes ahead," Karzai said at a youth conference in capital Kabul, DPA reported.
"Foreign forces, especially the United States itself, (are) going ahead with these negotiations."
Karzai's comments were the first official confirmation of any US role in the discussions.
They come a day after the United Nations Security Council split the sanctions list for Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders into two, a move aimed at drawing Taliban leaders into peace talks with the Afghan government.
US officials in Kabul were unavailable for comment.
Karzai said this was a crucial year for Afghanistan because the "transition starts this year and will begin exactly from next month."
US President Barack Obama is scheduled to announce next month how many troops he plans to withdraw from Afghanistan as part of a commitment to begin reducing the US military presence from July and hand over to Afghan security forces by 2014.
About 100,000 US troops are fighting in Afghanistan along with more than 40,000 soldiers from other NATO countries.
The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until they were ousted by US-led forces in 2001, have publicly dismissed any talks in the past, saying they will not negotiate until the foreign troops leave.