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Terrorism & Security

Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai says he's talking to the Taliban

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai confirmed that he's talking to the Taliban, seeking a political settlement with the group that harbored Al Qaeda prior to and just after 9/11.

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The Taliban have publicly insisted they will not enter talks with the government until foreign troops leave Afghanistan, something that has foiled previous attempts at dialogue, according to the BBC.

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Roughly 152,000 NATO troops -- the majority American -- are deployed to Afghanistan to help the government battle the Taliban.

The US has said it supports peace talks, though it declines to negotiate with the Taliban directly, according to Bloomberg News. A US State Department spokesman said recently that Washington distinguishes between Taliban moderates and hardliners.

We believe that some of these groups may well be willing to seek a political solution. We recognize that other groups will be holdouts and that’s why we are intensively bringing the fight to them.

The Taliban were ousted from power in late 2001 with the help of US special forces, the CIA and massive US bombing. But the Taliban still controls swathes of southern and eastern Afghanistan, and has foiled Kabul's attempt to extend its writ throughout the countryside.

About 2,144 NATO coalition troops have died since the conflict began in 2001, according to the website iCasualties.org.

According to a recent Associated Press analysis, public support for the conflict is slipping in the U.S. and Europe, and patience is running out. The Netherlands was the first country to withdraw all of its troops, the AP said, and Canada will be next.

In a commentary early this year on prospects for a political settlement in Afghanistan, Mohamed Abdel-Magid wrote that the Taliban have boycotted past efforts at talks, including the so-called "peace jirga" -- or tribal assembly of elders -- this past June. He said a deal with the Taliban was unlikely as long as NATO's military campaign continues.

Even Hamid Karzai, who has subordinated himself to U.S. pressure, advocates negotiation with Taliban groups. But the continued presence of foreign troops and military offensives will derail a political settlement, whether sought through the jirga process or any other form of negotiation.

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