NATO aids Taliban contacts with Afghan government

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 | 1:42 p.m. CDT

BRUSSELS — U.S. and NATO forces are helping top Taliban leaders sit down for talks with the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan as a step toward political reconciliation with the insurgency, a senior NATO official said Wednesday.

Some talks between the elected government and the insurgents have taken place in Kabul, the official said, where Taliban leaders would not dare to travel without NATO approval.

The account was the most detailed yet of the U.S. and NATO role in clandestine talks that officials have said has been happening for several weeks.

The official on Wednesday spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to describe the subject publicly.

The government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai has acknowledged some high-level contact with the Taliban, a homegrown Islamist insurgency seeking to displace Karzai's secular government.

The extent of the discussions has not been clear. The NATO official described recent face-to-face contacts but did not gives names dates or precise locations for the meetings.

The U.S and the NATO alliance are not mediating the talks, only allowing for safe passage of Taliban officials, U.S. officials said.

In August, Gen. David Petraeus, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, had told reporters that Karzai was pursuing negotiations and that "there have been some ways that we have facilitated some of the contact."

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