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    US hopeful of resuming talks with Taliban

    KABUL (PAN): With 34,000 American troops scheduled to exit Afghanistan in a year, US officials remain optimistic about resuming talks with the Taliban, the BBC reported on Friday.

    In March 2012, the insurgent movement suspended secret negotiations, calling the US erratic and vague. The Taliban also blasted the Americans for making inordinate demands.

    A report on the BBC website quoted an unnamed US official as saying: "We are still hopeful we might enter talks but we didn't want to raise expectations. The ball is now in the Taliban court."

    Before the process was suspended, the Taliban wanted their prisoners freed from Guantanamo Bay and the US pushed for the release of Bowe Bergdahl, the only American soldier in the militants’ captivity.

    “For both sides, it's still about talking and fighting in the run-up to the US-led NATO troop pullout in 2014,” another American official told BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet.

    Familiar with previous talks, the official said: "The channel is still there, and we hope to pick it up again." Both Western and Afghan officials are cautiously optimistic Pakistan’s greater engagement, freeing several Taliban prisoners.

    A series of clandestine meetings involving former US special envoy Marc Grossman and Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s emissary Tayeb Agha took place at the end of 2011 and early 2012.

    Also involving German diplomats, the process neared agreement on opening Taliban’s office for talks in Doha. However, President Hamid Karzai, suspicious a deal was being cut to weaken his administration, dropped the plan at the Bonn summit in December 2011.

    PAN Monitor/mud