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Robert Gates says Taliban contact ‘very preliminary’

Posted by The Agonist on June 19th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

Jun 19

The Guardian/Reuters – The US defence secretary, Robert Gates, has confirmed that America is in direct talks with the Taliban, but said it could be months before efforts to broker a peace deal in the country bear fruit.

Gates, who steps down at the end of the month, said there had been contacts between United States and the Taliban in recent weeks, headed by the State Department.

“There’s been outreach on the part of a number of countries, including the United States. I would say that these contacts are very preliminary at this point,” he told the CNN program “State of the Union”.

The comments from the outgoing U.S. defence chief were aired a day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced the United States was in contact with the Taliban, a striking public acknowledgment of a peace initiative that has been cloaked with secrecy.

Karzai said an Afghan push toward peace talks, after nearly a decade of war, had not yet reached a stage where the government and insurgents were meeting, but their representatives had been in touch.

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