20 Jun 2011

US negotiating with Taliban, Gates confirms

10:19 pm on 20 June 2011

United States Defence Secretary Robert Gates has confirmed the US has been negotiating with the Taliban over the war in Afghanistan.

The ABC reports what he calls outreach talks have been underway for a few weeks.

The US previously refused to publicly acknowledge any peace talks were underway, but Mr Gates said "very preliminary contacts" and "outreach" was being carried out by the US State Department in tandem with other countries.

The outgoing defence secretary says it is crucial to determine who really represents the Taliban before jumping into talks with parties claiming to speak for Taliban leader Mullah Omar, the ABC says.

The admission came one day after Afghan president Hamid Karzai said the US had been actively negotiating with the Taliban.

Mr Gates says he doubts the talks will bear fruit until the end of the year, saying the Taliban has to first come under enough military pressure to be convinced it cannot win the war.