No high-level talks between Afghan gov't and Taliban: U.S. envoy

14:16, October 30, 2010      

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High-level talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban as reported by the media "are not taking place" but "are just being written about," U.S. special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke said on Friday.

He said those coming up and saying "I've had enough of this war, I'd like to talk to you" were all those rank and file members of the Taliban at the local level, or individual provincial leaders or individual commanders with their units, who were feeling the pressure under immense U.S. military offensive.

"A lot of these groups, if you know the history of Afghanistan, you will know were not hard-core ideological Taliban," the envoy told reporters at a press briefing at the U.S. State Department. " They're independent groups who defend their local valley and move back and forth. And they're feeling the pressure."

"There's less here than meets the eye," he stressed.

Military pressure led to an increase in the number of insurgents who came up and talked to the Afghan government, Holbrooke said, adding "this is not, however, the kind of high- level talks which all of you are writing and speculating about. And those are not taking place, they're just being written about."

Some media reports have pointed to informal or secret high- level talks or rather negotiations going on -- oftentimes called a reconciliation process, between the Afghan government and Taliban members for some time.

"There's no indication at this point that the Taliban leadership wishes to change its course. If there is, you won't be the first to know about it, obviously." Holbrooke told reporters. "Confidential things must remain confidential in order to be confidential. And I believe in the confidentiality of serious discussions."

He even commented on the nuances among the words of talks, discussions and negotiations, saying that he would not use any word beyond "talks" and "discussions" which are not even taking place at the moment, while "negotiations" is "a bridge even further."

The Taliban have rejected conditions set by the U.S. and the Afghan government for talks, which include renouncing al-Qaida, respecting the constitution of Afghanistan and laying down arms.



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