London, Nov.13 : Afghan President Hamid Karzai, will today brief British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on talks being held with the Taliban with the aim of ending the conflict in his country.
According to The Independent, Karzai is due to meet Brown after flying into London from New York. He has already briefed Saudi Arabian King Abdullah and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on the issue. Karzai is on a short visit to Britain to attend Prince Charles' 60th birthday party and will see Brown before the latter heads for Washington for the G-20 summit.
Britain maintains a public posture of not talking to the Taliban, although secret talks have indeed been held, but supports the Afghan regime's efforts to direct peace overtures towards the Islamist group.
The Independent has learnt that the Karzai Government had held secret talks with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former mujahedin leader now labelled a terrorist by American and Britain, through members of his family who regularly visit Kabul.
The CIA and Pakistan supported Hekmatyar during the war against the Russians in the 1980s. In the civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal, he continued to be backed by the Americans and Pakistanis despite being blamed for atrocities. The warlord later fell out with the Americans and based himself in Iran, from where he directed attacks on NATO in Afghanistan.
Although the British Government denies involvement in any negotiations with the Taliban, direct contact with the insurgents has taken place, leading to a number of them changing sides and providing intelligence which led to their leaders being killed or captured.
Last month, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, the departing commander of British troops in Afghanistan, said a purely military victory was not possible and there would have to be a negotiated end to the conflict.
The US has also changed its position on talking to the Taliban. Previously, it ruled out any chance of the Taliban returning to power, but now American officials have been much more receptive to the idea of talking to them.