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Source: Karzai, high-level Taliban have been meeting

From Ivan Watson and Chris Lawrence, CNN
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Hamid Karzai: Taliban are 'brothers'
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Karzai tells the group it can help make peace in Afghanistan
  • The peace council launches as Afghan leaders meet with Pakistani officials
  • The Taliban says it is not part of the peace talks

(CNN) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been in talks with high-level Taliban members, but the effort has failed to yield "practical reconciliation" or the "resolution of many issues," a senior U.S. defense official said Thursday.

"We don't think the Taliban believe that they're losing to the degree that they'd come to terms in large numbers. Without question, they're hurting. We have it on good information that they're feeling the pressure. Just not enough," the official told CNN.

Karzai has been forging reconciliation efforts to seek peace with Taliban members and end the nine-year-old Afghan war. One idea his government has pushed is the Afghan Peace Council, which was formed to help negotiate with the Taliban.

That group convened for the first time on Thursday, a meeting in which Karzai called for militants to seize the opportunity for peace.

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"I call on them once again to use this opportunity and say 'yes' to this endeavour. I want them to come and bring peace to this land," Karzai told the group, made up of about 68 Afghan clerics and elders.

The senior U.S. official said the peace council and its efforts may pay off down the road. The U.S. military supports Karzai's efforts, and that any reconciliation must be Afghan-led, the official said.

Nevertheless, the official put high expectations in perspective, saying outsiders can't expect a "rock solid agreement" every time there are talks.

"It will be messy," the official said.

The official also noted that the Taliban and al Qaeda have to be thought of, and dealt with, differently.

"While al Qaeda just wants to kill people, the Taliban have definite governing ambitions. They want Afghanistan back -- but to accomplish that, they only need to do the minimum. They don't need to control every inch of land, just be present enough to exert influence," the official said.

The al Qaeda terror network attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, when it was harbored by Afghanistan's Taliban-led government. A month later, the United States invaded Afghanistan and toppled that government.

Another effort is also under way to forge peace. This week, political figures from Pakistan and Afghanistan sat down in Kabul for talks in what one Afghan official called a "new phase" in building bridges and making peace with the Taliban. The meeting is part of an effort called the Abu Dhabi process.

A Taliban spokesman has told CNN that the group was not interested in peace talks. Zabiuhullah Mujahed, the spokesman, said the group had no representative in the alleged negotiations in Kabul.

Peace negotiations would not happen until the Afghan government met the Taliban's precondition to withdraw foreign forces from the country, the spokesman said.

Journalist Nasir Habib contributed to this report.

 
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