Report: Afghanistan seeks peace talks with Taliban

Members of the Afghan High Peace Council will sit down with their counterparts in the defense and interior ministries to line up direct negotiations between Afghan president Hamid Karzai's government and the terrorist group, according to local news reports. 

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Salahuddin Rabbani, the council's chief negotiator, is scheduled to travel to Pakistan in order to secure Islamabad's support for the pending peace talks, a top Pakistani diplomat told reporters on Friday. 

But those efforts may be doomed even before representatives from either side reach the negotiating table.

Officials in Kabul told Reuters on Friday that aside from informal contact with Taliban leaders, Afghan officials believe direct peace talks with the terror group are highly unlikely before U.S. and coalition forces leave. 

"The contacts have taken place mostly at the provincial level. For instance, an official may meet Taliban commanders and urge them not to attack schools," an Afghan official involved in the process told Reuters.

In September, top American, Afghan and Pakistani officials began drafting a postwar transition plan designed to allow top-tier Taliban leaders to participate in upcoming peace talks once U.S. forces leave in two years. 

But earlier this year, Pentagon officials noted that Washington has largely abandoned efforts to reach out directly to Taliban leaders, with the department now solely focusing on the troop withdrawal and subsequent transition effort in Afghanistan. 

On Tuesday, Kabul firmly rejected the notion that any potential postwar peace talks would include members from the Pakistani-based Haqqani Network. 

"We don't want any kind of deal with the Haqqanis, who were behind many of the attacks on Afghan security forces and civilians including women and children," according to Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi.

“We have certain negotiating conditions with armed opposition groups, but the Haqqanis do not meet the criteria and they are in the service of a foreign spy agency," he said at the time. 

On Monday, the State and Treasury Departments imposed economic sanctions on Haqqani leader Qari Zakir, the first individual Haqqani member to have U.S. and international sanctions placed on him. 

Zakir allegedly runs the Haqqani network's terrorist training program in Afghanistan and has been connected to several attacks against U.S. and NATO forces in country.

The Haqqani commander, also known as Abdul Rauf, was also part of last September's rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, according to reports at the time.