May 18, 2010 / 1:45 PM / 9 years ago

Karzai says West starts to get Taliban peace push

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Tuesday the West was starting to realize the war in Afghanistan cannot be won militarily and that the peace process must involve reaching out to the Taliban.

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai (L) shakes hands with Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg at the Presidential Palace in Kabul May 17, 2010. REUTERS/Massoud Hossaini/Pool

More than nine years after their ouster from power by U.S.-backed forces, the Taliban have made a comeback in Afghanistan despite the presence of some 140,000 foreign troops led by NATO and the U.S. military.

Karzai will host a grand assembly of Afghans later this month to present his draft for negotiations with the Taliban and to seek advice from delegates on peace moves.

The draft pushes for the removal of the names of insurgent leaders from a U.N. sanctions list and possibly giving them asylum overseas.

Karzai told a news conference in Kabul he had held “extensive discussions about the peace process” with U.S. President Barack Obama during a three-day visit to Washington last week.

“And they showed explicit support in this regard,” said Karzai, whose relations with the U.S. government have been strained in recent years.

Karzai, leader of Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, said after years of debate the West had begun to realize the need to reach out to the Taliban.

“When (in the past) we were speaking to them (West) about us talking to the Taliban, they would worry and said ‘What do you mean of this? And (talks) with who?’,” he said.

“And it took us a lot of time to make them understand our intention ... that our intention is to bring peace to Afghanistan and that militarily this war cannot succeed.”

“For the past one month or so, we are beginning to see our points of views better understood by our allies, both in America and in Europe and in the United Kingdom,” Karzai said.

Earlier this year at a meeting in London, the West indicated it backed a plan to reintegrate Taliban foot soldiers as part of the peace process.

Karzai said the most important part of the peace draft was the offer of asylum to Taliban leaders. The idea was to have some of those Taliban leaders settled in an Islamic or Arab country.

Karzai stressed Saudi Arabia, Turkey and especially Pakistan, where many Taliban leaders are stationed, should be closely involved in any peace talks.

At least two NATO nations have said they will not extend their troops’ missions in Afghanistan and the Pentagon says it will start to scale back its presence by July next year.

Editing by Alistair Scrutton

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