Karzai open to talking with Taliban
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that he's willing to talk with the Taliban chief in a bid to bring peace to the country if the move would have the backing of the United States and other international partners.
Karzai said in an interview with The Associated Press that "sections of the international community" had undermined previous peace overtures to the Taliban by harassing mediators "even though they had quit the insurgency." He did not offer specific examples.
It was Karzai's first interview since President Barack Obama announced a new strategy for the Afghan war, including 30,000 U.S. reinforcements. Obama said in his Tuesday address that if all went well, the U.S. could begin withdrawing troops in July 2011.
Karzai said Thursday that the target to begin troop withdrawals would give an "impetus and a boost" for Afghans to work toward taking control of their own nation.
"We must talk to the Taliban as an Afghan necessity. The fight against terrorism and extremism cannot be won by fighting alone," Karzai said, adding that he would be willing to talk with Taliban chief Mullah Omar.
"Personally, I would definitely talk to Mullah Omar," he added. "Whatever it takes to bring peace to Afghanistan, I, as the Afghan president, will do it. But I am also aware that it cannot be done by me alone without the backing of the international community."
Karzai offered to talk with Mullah Omar soon after the Taliban was ousted in the U.S.-led invasion of 2001, but he backed off under U.S. pressure. Since then he has offered to talk with Taliban members who were willing to quit the insurgency.
Mullah Omar disappeared after the collapse of the Taliban regime and has been rumored to be living in Pakistan, a charge the Pakistani government denies.