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Karzai, Petraeus in talks on Afghan militias: spokesman

world Updated: Jul 13, 2010 19:10 IST

Afghanistan's president and the commander of foreign forces in the country are trying to reach agreement on the creation of controversial grass-roots militias to fight the Taliban, an official said today.

US media have reported that US General David Petraeus, who took over command of 140,000 US and NATO troops on July 4, has been pushing for the establishment of Iraq-style tribal militia to fight militants in remote Afghan villages.

The reports have said that President Hamid Karzai had opposed the plan because of its potential to weaken his government.

Karzai's spokesman today confirmed that talks have been going on between the two men but he played down any difference of opinion on the militias.

"Everybody agrees that we have to make sure that if these forces are developed that they are developed with all the necessary checks and balances required by the constitution," Waheed Omar told reporters.

"The good point is that on most of it we all agree," he said. "But we have to agree on some other issues," he said without giving further detail.

He said the discussions between between Karzai and Petraeus were continuing, and they met again today, along with the US ambassador to Kabul, Karl Eikenberry.

Afghan and NATO officials have said, today's meeting would be the ninth time Karzai and Petraeus had met since the US general took command.

Omar said a final decision on setting up village militias was likely as early as Wednesday, and said it could go either way. Afghan officials fear that militias could further destabilise the war-torn country as it tries to quell a Taliban insurgency, now in its ninth year.

Omar conceded there were widespread concerns about repeating the mistakes of the 1980s, where local militias were set up during the Soviet occupation to fight mujahideen, but then morphed into private armies.

"There are concerns," he said. "We all know that it has good points as well as some threats. We're discussing jointly how to remove those threats before taking a decision," he added.