Karzai in secret talks with Taliban: report
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[February 04, 2014]
(Reuters) — Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has been holding secret
talks with Taliban officials in the hope of persuading them to make
peace with his government, the New York Times reported on Tuesday,
citing unnamed Afghan and Western officials.
Karzai's spokesman could not reached for
comment. But the Times, in its report, said the spokesman had confirmed contact
had been made and described the past two months as positive.
Officials, however, told the paper the Taliban-initiated talks had been
fruitless so far, although they may help explain Karzai's mounting public
hostility to Washington.
In November — around the same time the secret talks reportedly began — Karzai
announced his intention to avoid signing a bilateral security deal with the
United States until after a presidential election in April. Karzai has served
two terms and cannot run again.
President Barack Obama, frustrated by Karzai's refusal to sign the accord, was
due to meet top commanders at the White House on Tuesday to discuss the future
of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.
Relations have deteriorated sharply over Karzai's refusal to sign, sapping
already scant support for the war in Washington, which has halved aid for
civilian assistance in the fiscal year 2014.
Washington has signaled it could pull all troops out after 2014, unless a deal
is signed soon. This would leave Afghanistan's fledgling security forces to
fight the Taliban insurgency alone and diplomats fear they would struggle to
cope without U.S. financial and military support.
The Taliban have vowed to derail the April 5 election and the recent spike in
violence in the capital suggests secret talks with Karzai have made little
difference over their stated intention to step up attacks.
Monthly incidents in January were at the highest since 2008, according to
security officials, and the trend has continued into February, with two bombs
going off in Kabul on Monday.
(Reporting by Jessica Donati;
editing by Ron Popeski)
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