The U.S. goal is to midwife talks between the insurgents and the American-backed Afghan government led by Karzai, who frequently has felt sidelined by the U.S. as it pursues talks with the Taliban. He bills peace talks as an Afghan-led process, which the U.S. insists is also its goal.
The U.S. outreach is meant to jump-start negotiations, U.S. officials have said, but they acknowledge that their efforts can feed the perception that Karzai is not fully in charge.
Wahid Muzhda, a former Taliban foreign ministry official and an analyst on issues related to the group, said any talks would probably be “between the Americans and Taliban, but the Afghan government or High Peace Council representatives will be in the talks.”
The AP has learned the identity of some of these prisoners, including Khairullah Khairkhwa, former Taliban governor of Herat, and Mullah Mohammed Fazl, a former top Taliban military commander believed responsible for sectarian killings before the U.S. invasion that toppled the Taliban government in Afghanistan in 2001.
• Associated Press writers Ben Feller and Matthew Lee in Washington and Slobodan Lekic in Kabul contributed to this report.
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