Taliban representatives and the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai have begun secret, high-level talks over a negotiated end to the war, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
Citing Afghan and Arab sources, the newspaper said the talks follow inconclusive meetings, hosted by Saudi Arabia, that ended more than a year ago.
The Post said the sources emphasized the preliminary nature of the current discussions but said they believe that Taliban representatives are fully authorized to speak for the Quetta Shura, the Afghan Taliban organization based in Pakistan, and its leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar.
Although Omar's representatives have long publicly insisted that negotiations were impossible until all foreign troops withdraw, the sources said the Quetta Shura has begun to talk about a comprehensive agreement that would include participation of some Taliban figures in the government and the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops on an agreed time line, the Post reported.
A half-dozen sources directly involved in or on the margins of the talks agreed to discuss them on the condition of anonymity, the paper said. It said all emphasized the preliminary nature of the talks.
Several sources said the discussions with the Quetta Shura do not include representatives of the Haqqani group, a separately led faction that U.S. intelligence considers particularly brutal.
Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, told reporters last week that high-level Taliban leaders had "sought to reach out" to the top level of the Karzai government.