Taliban denies talks with Afghan officials
THE TALIBAN has denied reports that they were about to hold talks with Afghan government officials.
Rumours have swirled for days that President Hamid Karzai's government was seeking direct talks to be held in neutral Saudi Arabia.
But a statement from Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the reports were "baseless." He said negotiations to end the 10-year-old war cannot begin until trust is established between the Islamist militants and the US and its international coalition..
The Taliban have so far expressed willingness only to talk with the US, calling the Afghan government a puppet. Washington insists eventual talks must be Afghan-led and involve Mr Karzai's government.
Meanwhile a Nato report says the Taliban believe they will return to power after the US-led coalition ends its combat role in Afghanistan in 2014.
Its findings were based on the interrogation of thousands of insurgent prisoners. The captured Taliban fighters also believed they were receiving support from Pakistan and that they were doing well on the battlefield.
But a Nato spokesman said most of the captured fighters think that "they are still having a successful role" on the ground but that perception was wrong and Nato was not planning to change its strategy because of it in any way.
"The insurgency is clearly on the back foot. We have been pressurising them over the summer, we have taken vast amounts of land out of their hands and we have detained a high number" of militants, he said.
Over the past two years the militants have taken a pounding in their southern heartland, and foreign troops have escalated a campaign against them in eastern Afghanistan. Hundreds of their low- and mid-level Taliban commanders have also been picked up in night raids carried out by Afghan and coalition forces.
But their leaders and many of their fighters are located in safe havens just across the border in Pakistan's lawless tribal belt. The US and its allies have asked Pakistan to crack down on the safe haves in those areas, but relations between the two countries' militaries have reached rock bottom following a Nato cross-border attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November.