Pak 'handlers' may scuttle substantive peace talks with Taliban, fear Afghan officials

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Kabul, Oct 16 (ANI): In the midst of claims that some members of the Taliban are ready to negotiate with Kabul, Afghan officials believe that their handlers in Pakistan, who exert significant control over them, may not allow them to do so.

The Washington Post quoted Afghan Defense Minister Rahim Wardak, as saying that: "I think any high-level insurgents will not be able to come here unless they have the full agreement of their supporters."

The head of Afghanistan's new peace council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, has said that he believes that some members of the Taliban are ready to negotiate, but added that the contacts are in their early stages.

"We are taking our first steps. I believe there are people among the Taliban that have a message that they want to talk, they are ready," Rabbani, a former Afghan president, said.

Rabbani's comments echoed those of other Afghan and U.S. officials in Kabul who have said that members of the Taliban, including senior leaders or those purporting to represent them, have met with the Afghan government to discuss potential negotiations, despite the insurgent group's public denials of such meetings.

Some officials in Kabul have described the contacts, which stretch back years but appear to have intensified recently, as remaining scattered and sporadic, the paper said.

On Tursday, the US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that it was too early to tell whether the Afghan reconciliation process would work.

The substance of contacts with the Taliban, however, remain a mystery so far, even to members of the new peace council, which is eventually supposed to make policy on how to move forward, it added. (ANI)

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