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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Push on Talks With Taliban Confirmed by NATO Officials - NYTimes.com

Push on Talks With Taliban Confirmed by NATO Officials - NYTimes.com
BRUSSELS — The United States is helping senior Taliban leaders attend initial peace talks with the Afghan government in Kabul because military officials and diplomats want to take advantage of any possibility of political reconciliation, Obama administration and NATO officials said Thursday.
Even as top American officials cautioned that they are not yet ready to formally join the nascent peace effort with their Taliban foes of the past nine years, they acknowledged that the reconciliation effort is a key part of the American-led war in Afghanistan.
“Whenever opportunity arise that are worth exploring, we ought to take advantage of that,” said Defense Secretary Robert Gates, appearing before reporters alongside Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a NATO conference here. “Whether this leads into something concrete,” Mr. Gates said he couldn’t say, but added that “we need to be open to opportunities that arise.”
While Mrs. Clinton was even more cautious about the pace of the peace talks, she acknowledged during an interview on Thursday that while Americans may be squeamish about the idea of peace talks with the people who harbored Osama Bin Laden prior to the Sept. 11 attacks, the American public at some point may have to swallow the idea of reconciliation with the Taliban in order to have peace in Afghanistan.
“You don’t make peace with your friends,” Mrs. Clinton told ABC’s “Good Morning America” in an interview that aired on Thursday. She said that she thinks “it’s highly unlikely that the leadership of the Taliban that refused to turn over Bin Laden in 2001 will ever reconcile.” But, she added, “stranger things have happened in the history of war.”

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