Karzai says US in talks with Taliban
KABUL (PAN): In his first official confirmation of US involvement in negotiations with the Taliban, President Hamid Karzai told reporters in Kabul on Saturday that the US and other foreign powers were engaged in preliminary talks with the insurgents about a possible settlement to end the war in Afghanistan.
Karzai warned that his government would not participate in the second international Bonn Conference on Afghanistan, scheduled to take place later this year, if Afghanistan's armed opposition, including the Taliban, is invited to represent itself at the meeting.
Focused on forming a government in Afghanistan, the first Bonn Conference was held in December 2001, soon after a US-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime. The second conference is scheduled to take place a decade after the first, on Dec. 5 this year.
Karzai said Afghan representatives of several different constituencies had participated in the first Bonn conference, prior to the formation of an Afghan government. This time, he said, only official government representatives should participate.
Opposition elements should be part of the same delegation as the Afghan government if they wish to participate in the conference, he said.
"There are rumours that foreigners are trying to create a situation which allows international forces to stay for another decade in Afghanistan," the president said.
Calling 2011 a crucial year for Afghanistan, Karzai said that success would be assured through unity, planning and bravery. The drawdown of foreign troops, the pending US-Afghanistan strategic deal and the Bonn Conference are pivotal events taking place this year, he explained.
He said the strategic agreement with the US is in the interests of Afghanistan, but that his government would insist on many conditions before endorsing the deal.
However, he said Afghanistan's neighbours were nervous about the strategic partnership with the US, and acknowledged that the issue had caused regional tension.
Still, Karzai considered his recent visit to Pakistan a success and said he hopes to see positive results from that trip within a month.
The president renewed his call for foreign troops to exercise the utmost care to avoid civilian casualties during their operations against militants. He also said there should be no more nighttime raids.
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