Monday, January 22, 2018

Taliban leader sent letter to Obama, U.S. officials say

WASHINGTON — Reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar wrote to President Barack Obama last year indicating an interest in talks key to ending the war in Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported Friday, citing current and former unnamed U.S. officials.

The letter purportedly from Omar was unsigned. It was passed through a Taliban intermediary in July and intended for the White House. The officials spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the letter and its contents are part of sensitive diplomacy with a fighting force that still targets U.S. troops. The Obama administration did not directly respond to the letter, two officials said.

Sources who described the letter did not disclose its precise contents, but one current and one former official said it addressed Taliban willingness to build trust with the United States. One official said Omar complained that the United States had not done enough to establish good faith for negotiations, such as arranging the release of Taliban prisoners held in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

A direct message from Omar could be a strong signal that the Taliban movement is interested in negotiation at the highest levels. The Obama administration is trying to foster talks among the Taliban and the U.S.-backed government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, but remains wary of Taliban motives.

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