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Secret U.S., Taliban talks reach turning point

Missy Ryan, Warren Strobel and Mark Hosenball Reuters 12/20/2011 00:23
Secret U.S., Taliban talks reach turning point - Afghanistan - security - Asia


After 10 months of secret dialogue with Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents, senior U.S. officials say the talks have reached a critical juncture and they will soon know whether a breakthrough is possible, leading to peace talks whose ultimate goal is to end the Afghan war.



As part of the accelerating, high-stakes diplomacy, Reuters has learned, the United States is considering the transfer of an unspecified number of Taliban prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay military prison into Afghan government custody.

It has asked representatives of the Taliban to match that confidence-building measure with some of their own. Those could include a denunciation of international terrorism and a public willingness to enter formal political talks with the government headed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The officials acknowledged that the Afghanistan diplomacy, which has reached a delicate stage in recent weeks, remains a long shot. Among the complications: U.S. troops are drawing down and will be mostly gone by the end of 2014, potentially reducing the incentive for the Taliban to negotiate.

Still, the senior officials, all of whom insisted on anonymity to share new details of the mostly secret effort, suggested it has been a much larger piece of President Barack Obama's Afghanistan policy than is publicly known.


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