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The nine-year war has inflicted a mounting toll on Afghan civilians. A U.N. report said more than 1,200 Afghans died and nearly 2,000 were wounded between January and June this year.

In other violence, a roadside bomb killed a NATO service member in the south, the alliance said, without giving a nationality or exact location.

Monday’s death brought to 27 the number of NATO forces killed this month. At least 2,015 NATO service members have died since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan began on Oct. 7, 2001, according to an Associated Press count.

In the east Monday, Taliban fighters ambushed a supply convoy guarded by Afghan military contractors as it traveled through Ghazni province on its way to Kandahar, said provincial police Chief Zarawar Zahid. An hourlong gunbattle killed eight insurgents and wounded two Afghan security contractors in Qarabagh district.

Six militants died in operations by Afghan forces Sunday in southern Helmand province’s Marjah and Greshk districts, the Defense Ministry said in a statement Monday.

President Hamid Karzai confirmed his government has been in informal talks with the Taliban on securing peace in war-weary Afghanistan “for quite some time” — the latest in a series of high-level acknowledgments of contacts with the insurgent group.

Unofficial discussions have been held with Taliban representatives over an extended period, Mr. Karzai told CNN’s “Larry King Live” in an interview to be broadcast Monday.

The Afghan government said it hopes to make talks more structured with a “peace council” that will aim for formal talks with insurgent groups. On Sunday, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani was named chief of the council.

Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said militants must renounce al Qaeda, lay down their arms and respect the country’s constitution — particularly provisions protecting minorities and women.

Mr. Holbrooke told journalists and politicians in Berlin on Monday the talks did not involve the United States, and he warned the media were exaggerating the importance of the discussions.

“The reports greatly exceed the reality,” Mr. Holbrooke said. “There’s no question that the Taliban are under tremendous military pressure, and that’s one of the reasons you’ve seen so much more recent comment about reconciliation.”

NATO will meet in November in Lisbon to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. The alliance’s chief said Afghan forces assuming a greater role in the war would be a major topic.

Mr. Fogh Rassmussen also addressed the readiness of Afghan forces, saying he expected an announcement in Lisbon that the transition to Afghan-led security would begin in parts of the country by January at the earliest, July the latest.

Associated Press writers Jill Lawless in London; Slobodan Lekic in Brussels; Juergen Baetz in Berlin; and Deb Riechmann, Heidi Vogt and Amir Shah in Kabul contributed to this report.