Pursuing peace with the Taliban

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Creating a safe passage for the Taliban.

Officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States gathered in Islamabad this week to explore ways to arrange a safety zone for r Afghan Taliban militants who wish to engage in peace talks.

Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Jawed Luddin:

(SOUNDBITE) (English) JAWED LUDDIN, DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER OF AFGHANISTAN, SAYING:

"Our objective, as part of a peace process, is to engage in direct negotiations with leaders of the Taliban and with other groups, and to talk them about the future, talk to them about where they fit in the current political process alongside the people of Afghanistan."

The U.S. has been working for more than a year to revive stalled peace talks with the Afghan Taliban as it prepares for the withdrawal of most foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

Marc Grossman, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan:

(SOUNDBITE) (English) MARC GROSSMAN, US. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN, SAYING:

"The purpose of the United States in having any contact is for one purpose -- and one purpose only -- and that is to foster a conversation among Afghans about the future of Afghanistan."

That campaign has become central to U.S. strategy as officials have said the Afghan war will not end on the battlefield alone.

Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson was made available to Reuters by the Pentagon.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) BRIGADIER GENERAL CARSTEN JACOBSON, SAYING:

"There has to be a political settlement, so anything that leads in that direct can be welcomed."

Analysts say it remains far from clear whether the Taliban would embrace sharing power in Afghanistan and whether the militants are

cohesive enough to agree on a joint diplomatic approach. But Washington's strategy, before a NATO summit in May, is to build on what officials see as military progress against the Taliban.

Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters.

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