Karzai Says Taliban Is in Touch

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Wednesday that Taliban insurgent leaders were increasingly contacting him to try to find ways of making peace.

Afghan and Western military leaders and diplomats recognize talks will have to be held to end the Taliban insurgency that has claimed some 5,000 lives this year alone. But talks should be held from a position of strength, they say.

"We have had an increasing number of contacts from Taliban from within Afghanistan and from Pakistan," Karzai told a news conference.

"These contacts have especially increased in the past seven or eight months. As a matter of fact only this week, I had more than five or six major contacts, approaches by the leadership of the Taliban trying to find out if they can come back to Afghanistan," he said.

The Taliban are far from being a unified group, NATO commanders caution, and while some leaders may be willing to enter talks, they do not speak for the whole of the Islamist movement.

But talks may be useful to bring over more moderate elements, they say.

"If we are speaking of a centralized authority within the Taliban with whom we can talk for peace, that is not there," said Karzai. "We don't know the figure or an office or someone that has contacted us representing the whole Taliban movement.

"We are willing to talk to those Taliban who are not part of al-Qaida or the terrorist network," he said.