The U.S. and Afghan governments have begun secret three-way talks with the Taliban, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told The Wall Street Journal, disclosing an important breakthrough in efforts to end the 10-year war.
Mr. Karzai, whose government had protested being left out of recent talks between Washington and the insurgents, added he believes most Taliban are "definitively" interested in a peace settlement.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai: 'People in Afghanistan want peace, including the Taliban. They're also people like we all are. They have families, they have relatives, they have children, they are suffering a tough time.
"There have been contacts between the U.S. government and the Taliban, there have been contacts between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and there have been some contacts that we have made, all of us together, including the Taliban," Mr. Karzai said in the interview Wednesday in his office at the Arg Palace in Kabul.
He declined to specify the location of the talks or go into further detail, saying he feared that could damage the process.
Mr. Karzai's remarks suggest progress in tentative peace efforts as President Barack Obama begins withdrawing forces and prepares for the transfer of security responsibilities to Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
U.S. officials cautioned against reading too much into what came out of the three-way session, which was held in the past month to prepare the ground for further contacts.
Taliban spokesmen couldn't be reached to comment.
Meetings between Taliban emissaries and the U.S. in recent months have centered on opening a Taliban office in the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar, and on confidence-building measures such as a possible transfer to Qatar of Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, U.S. and Taliban officials said.