U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says that the State Department, in tandem with other countries, has been conducting preliminary "outreach" talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Gates told CNN television that "these contacts are very preliminary at this point."
He stressed it was crucial to determine "who really represents the Taliban" before jumping into talks with parties claiming to represent Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.
Earlier, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the United States was in contact with the Taliban
over a possible end to the nearly decade-long war in Afghanistan.
compiled from agency reports