Holbrooke believes Taliban is under intense pressure

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Kabul, July 28 (ANI): U.S.President Barack Obama's Special Envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, believes that the Taliban is under a huge amount of pressure because of the fresh NATO troop surge, especially in the southern part of Afghanistan.

Speaking during a trip to Kabul and Ghazni, he told the BBC that he wanted "clear visible progress in about a year", and added that some engagement with the Taliban had "long been a part of the policy" for the region.

Outlining new tactics for the war in Afghanistan amid indications that war's long stalemate has weakened support for President Hamid Karzai in next month's election, Holbrooke was also quoted by ABC as saying that he is determined about pursuing an aggressive approach to altering U.S. policy in Afghanistan, unafraid to blame the previous administration as much as decades of war for the country's woes.

He told the BBC that the Taliban were "under intense pressure", with their funding sources seriously undermined, but added that a new priority was to bring more Taliban fighters into the political process.

"There is room in Afghan society for all those fighting with the Taliban who renounce al-Qaeda and its extremist allies, who lay down their arms and who participate in the political life of the country," he said.

"Essentially this means a clear route for former insurgents to return to their villages and go back to farming their land, or a role for some of them within the legitimate security forces," he said.

"We're helping a nation get back on its feet after 30 horrible years, starting with the Soviet invasion, the Taliban era and, let me be honest, the period in the last few years. We made mistakes ourselves," Holbrooke told reporters during a visit to Ghazni province.

"It's been a stalemate. Neither side was going to win," Holbrooke said in an interview when asked whether he agreed with those who declared the war a stalemate.

The Obama administration's most visual policy change was the deployment of more than 20,000 additional troops to southern Afghanistan, the first time the U.S. has committed large resources to the Taliban heartland.

More than seven-and-a-half years after the war began, Afghanistan has never been more dangerous for U.S. troops. July was the deadliest month of the war for all foreign troops, and according to an ABC News poll taken earlier this year, Afghans are twice as pessimistic about the future of their country as they were in 2004.

The Afghan government says the Taliban have agreed to a cease-fire in an insurgent-held area to allow polls to take place smoothly there.

A presidential spokesman said the deal applied to the north-western province of Badghis.

But a spokesman for the Taliban later denied that a deal was in place, reports from Afghanistan said. (ANI)

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