As the newly set up Afghan peace council kicks off its work today to broker an end to the war with Taliban, the US has extended its support to President Hamid Karzai's plan to hold talks with the militant group.
"This is an Afghan-led process. We will support that process. But ultimately, you're talking about the composition of the political structure and civil society within Afghanistan, and this is rightly decisions for the Afghan Government and Afghan people to make," State Department spokesman P J Crowley told reporters.
In Kabul, a spokesman of President Hamid Karzai said that the 70-member High Council for Peace would start its work on Wednesday, hoping that it would succeed in ending the war with Taliban and bringing lasting peace to the country. Crowley also said the US is willing to support removal of UN sanctions against more Taliban leaders so as to give further boost to the peace process but insisted that this should not be linked to the closer of the Guantanamo detention center as suggested by some peace council members.
"Well, on an ongoing basis we are evaluating modifications to the individuals on the sanctions list at the UN. We've made some adjustments during the course of this year. And as we work through issues and in collaboration with the UN and other members of the Security Council, that is certainly possible," he said. "We have returned a significant number of individuals at Guantanamo to their countries or to third countries based on our assessment of the dangers that they pose to the US and to others. But I would not connect our ongoing activity to work to close the facility at Guantanamo with the efforts at reconciliation and reintegration in Afghanistan," he said.
In an interview to the CNN earlier, Karzai acknowledged that he was holding unofficial talks with the Taliban for quite some time and was willing to negotiate with senior Taliban leaders as soon as possible. "We have been talking to the Taliban as countryman to countryman talk in that manner, not as a regular official contact with the Taliban with effects to address, but rather unofficial personal contacts have been going on for quite some time. Now that the peace council has come into existence, these talks will go on and will go on officially and more rigorously, I hope," Karzai said.
"No official contacts with a known entity that reports to a body of Taliban that comes back and reports to us regularly, that hasn't happened yet. We hope we can begin that as soon as possible. But contacts, of course, have been there between various elements of the Afghan government at the level of community and also at political level," Karzai said in response to a question.