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Doubts about Afghan peace talks

Over the past week, US and Afghan officials have been revealing tidbits about talks with Taliban leaders, raising hopes for a peaceful resolution to a war in its 10th year.

world Updated: Oct 22, 2010 00:30 IST

Over the past week, US and Afghan officials have been revealing tidbits about talks with Taliban leaders, raising hopes for a peaceful resolution to a war in its 10th year.

“The international community, our neighbours and our people are marching toward it with full strength,” President Hamid Karzai said in a speech on Wednesday. “The rumours we are hearing from the Taliban and our other brothers say a lot of people are hopeful about this peace process.”

But some coalition officials, Afghans and people familiar with insurgent leaders say contacts with militants are nothing new and have been overstated, perhaps to split the ranks of fighters or create the impression in the West of progress in resolving the unpopular war.

They also questioned how the US could be serious about peace at a time when it is escalating its escalating attacks in southern Afghanistan.

Kai Eide, the UN's former envoy to Afghanistan said, “My feeling is that this is a lot of spin that the war strategy is working, that things are moving forward more than they are.”

Those with knowledge of the discussions say Karzai's government has been in contact with top-level insurgents, but caution that the talks are fragile and are not formal peace negotiations. Mark Sedwill, NATO's top civilian representative, said Wednesday that the Afghan government had opened channels of communication with some insurgent leaders.

“Some of these are significant members of the Taliban leadership,” Sedwill said.But he added: “It's not even yet talks about talks.”

The Taliban deny that any of their representatives have been involved in talks.