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Karzai Objects To Direct U.S. Talks With Taliban

Afghan President Hamid Karzai: "The process will not go anywhere."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai: "The process will not go anywhere."

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has said U.S. efforts to tame the growing Taliban insurgency through negotiations would fail unless his government agreed to such talks.

The Obama administration has announced it will send more troops and economic assistance to Afghanistan as well as intensify diplomacy within the region in a bid to counter the Taliban, who now control large parts of the Asian nation.

But in an interview with CNN, Karzai objected to the strategy of having U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan conduct direct talks with Taliban members in order to persuade them to abandon their struggle and join local militias.

"If you want to accomplish a local deal with a certain Taliban commander at a tactical level, good enough," the Afghan leader told CNN's "GPS" program. "But even that has to be done in agreement with the Afghan administration [government] at the local, provincial level. Without that knowledge in the Afghan administration, this peace process will not go anywhere."

After U.S.-led forces drove out the Taliban in 2001 for harboring Al-Qaeda leaders responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States, the Islamist extremists retreated to havens inside Pakistan, regrouped, and launched an insurgency.

Their success in the past three years has caught Washington off guard and prompted concerns of a wider rebellion that could engulf Afghanistan and further destabilize Pakistan, its neighbor and nuclear power.

The United States is deploying an additional 17,000 troops to reinforce the roughly 70,000 international troops already in Afghanistan. NATO leaders also have agreed to boost troops levels by 3,000 to provide security ahead an August 20 election.

Karzai, who has ruled the multiethnic nation since the Taliban's ouster, won the 2004 presidential election. The United States has said that it will not back him or any other candidate in the upcoming poll.

The Afghan leader also said his government would change a law critics said legalized rape within marriage for Shi'a Muslims, saying he was unaware of the provision when it was passed.

President Barack Obama called the measure, which prevented women from declining a husband's request for sexual intercourse, abhorrent.