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Report: U.S.-Taliban could resume talks

  |   Jan. 11, 2012 at 11:41 PM
WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Direct peace talks between the United States and Afghan Taliban could resume soon, once the Afghan president gives his nod, senior U.S. officials said.

The officials in the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama told The Washington Post the direct talks, which collapsed in December after Afghan President Hamid Karzai decided not to go along with them, could restart within weeks if Karzai changes his mind. The Obama administration has said any talks with the Taliban must be "Afghan-led.

The officials told the Post senior U.S. diplomat Marc Grossman, who helped organize a number of secret U.S. meetings with the insurgents last year, would travel to Afghanistan next week for talks with Karzai.

"If Karzai were to tell [the Obama administration] to go ahead, then we'd start talking again," one officials said.

Prior to the termination of the talks in December, the report said there had been a tentative U.S.-Taliban agreement that included the transfer of five Afghan detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison to Qatar, and the insurgents giving up international terrorism.

The U.S. official told the Post while all parties have acknowledged agreement on opening a Taliban office in Qatar as one of the items in the tentative deal, "we need now to make it real."

Qatar Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani was quoted as saying Wednesday his government welcomed "any opportunity" to defuse tension in the region.

U.S. officials say talks with the Taliban are designed to build confidence before actual negotiations on Afghanistan's future can begin between the insurgents and the Karzai government, the report said.

The Taliban are ready to talk to the United States, but not with the Afghan government, one official told the Post, adding: "Our job is to see if we can break through that door."

Also, Afghan opponents of the talks want Karzai to be firm against them.

Some of the U.S. officials also are not certain the Taliban leadership is serious about a political settlement.

"Some are going to want to talk, some are going to want to fight," one official said.

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