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Are the Taliban really ready for peace talks in Afghanistan?

Despite the Afghan government’s declaration that the Taliban is ready for official peace talks, Taliban statements have indicated otherwise, underscoring the difficulty of dealing with a multifaceted insurgency.

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai (c.) speaks during the inaugural session of Afghanistan's new peace council, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Oct. 7.

Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

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The Taliban may be ready to sit down with the Afghan government for official peace talks, said Burhanuddin Rabbani, the head of Afghanistan’s new High Peace Council and a former president, amid recent reports of unofficial preliminary contact with Taliban members.

Mr. Rabbani’s announcement came on Thursday, just one week after the council held its inaugural meeting and the government of President Hamid Karzai claimed to be in secret peace talks with the Taliban. The Taliban, however, has denied that they are in official talks with the government. Their response underscores the difficulties the government will face negotiating with an insurgency composed of a variety of factions without central leadership.

Despite the Afghan government’s apparent optimism, there are concerns about who exactly the government is talking to within the Taliban and if it is communicating with other antigovernment insurgent groups that operate within Afghanistan.

Still the government sees this as a prime opportunity to begin negotiations with the Taliban, which has opposed it since they were removed from power in 2001.

“We see some sort of willingness within the Taliban ranks to talk to the government of Afghanistan and the High Peace Council, but it’s still too early to announce any kind of results from these unofficial contacts,” says Baryalai Helali, spokesman for the peace program of the Afghan government. “These are much more personal contacts and there have not been any kind of official talks with the Taliban leadership.”

According to Mr. Helali, members of the council have been in communication with Taliban officials at all levels of the organization.

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