7 Oct 2010

US won't comment on Afghan peace talks report

6:57 pm on 7 October 2010

The US State Department has declined to comment on a report that the Taliban is in secret negotiations with the Afghan government to end the nine-year war.

A report by The Washington Post quotes Afghan and Arab sources as saying top representatives of the Afghan government and Pakistani-based Quetta Shura organisation are in talks.

The newspaper describes the current talks as preliminary in nature, but citing anonymous sources close to the negotiations it reports that the Taliban side is very serious about finding a way out.

Washington Post reporter Karen DeYoung co-wrote the story and told the ABC that, unlike past discussions, Quetta Shura negotiators are speaking with full authority on behalf of their leader Mohammad Omar.

"The Afghans at least are convinced this time around that their interlocutors on the Taliban side really do have a mandate," she said.

The newspaper says the sides have begun talking about a comprehensive agreement including Taliban figures participating in a future Afghan government.

The White House says US president Barack Obama supports recent attempts by the Afghan government to negotiate with leaders of the Taliban.

However, White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs would not comment specifically about the newspaper report, saying it is up to Afghan leaders to decide whom to talk to.