US initiative over Afghan govt, Taliban peace talks at ‘preliminary stage'': Gates

 US initiative over Afghan govt, Taliban peace talks at ‘preliminary stage'': Gates Washington, June 20: U. S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said initiatives taken by several countries, including America, to broker a peace deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban is at a ‘very preliminary stage.''

Gates, who will step down at the end of this month, said there had been contacts between the United States and the Taliban in recent weeks, headed by the State Department.

“There''s been outreach on the - on the part of a number of countries, including the United States. I would say that these contacts are very preliminary at this point,” the Daily Mail quoted him, as saying.

Gates’ comments came a day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced that Washington was in contact with the Taliban.

He had also said that an Afghan push toward peace talks, after nearly a decade of war, had not reached to a stage when they could decide to meet and sort out the differences, but added that their representatives had been in touch.

The US is scheduled to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan by 2014, but Gates had earlier said that a residual force might stay beyond that date to help train Afghan forces.

"Obviously it would be a small fraction of the presence that we have today, but I think we''re willing to do that. My sense is, they (Afghan officials) are interested in having us do that," he had said during a surprise visit to Bagram air field in Afghanistan in March this year. (ANI)

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