Impostor deepens confusion over Afghan peace "talks"

Fri Nov 26, 2010 8:39am EST
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By Paul Tait

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's protracted move toward talks with the Taliban bordered on farce on Friday with Afghan and foreign officials trading blame after a fake Taliban "leader" left them red-faced.

Reports about talks have intensified as U.S. President Barack Obama's December review of his war strategy approaches and as acceptance grows for the need for a negotiated settlement to a war that is widely seen to have gone badly for the United States.

They have also come as U.S. and NATO commanders talk up recent military successes since the last of 30,000 extra troops, ordered by Obama last December, arrived over the summer and fighting intensified in the Taliban's southern heartland.

Against that backdrop, interest in talks has grown dramatically, although there have been no high-level negotiations confirmed by U.S., NATO or Afghan officials.

Karzai's government maintains the process must be Aghan-led and has established a peace council as part of its wider reconciliation efforts.

"The international community, including the U.S. and UK, have been supportive of the peace efforts and have expressed their willingness to help," a senior palace official told Reuters.

"We have always stressed any direct efforts by the international community toward reconciliation will not only fail to bring results but could be counter-productive," he said.

Some Western leaders have said the conflict cannot be won militarily. Violence is at its worst across Afghanistan since the Taliban were ousted in 2001 by U.S.-backed Afghan forces despite the presence of about 150,000 foreign troops.   Continued...