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Pentagon Sees Afghan Reconciliation Unlikely Without Military Push

Spanish soldiers of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) visit a coal-mining camp in Herat in March.
The Pentagon says it is probably too soon to begin the process of reintegrating Taliban fighters back into Afghan society.

A Pentagon spokesman said U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates believed the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan security forces needed to make more progress providing security on the ground.

Spokesman Geoff Morrell did not say how long fighting might have to persist before serious reconciliation could advance, but he said the ISAF was raising pressure on the Taliban and that security on the ground was growing.

Morrell's comments come as a fresh report in "The Washington Post" says high-level representatives of the Taliban and President Hamid Karzai's government have started secret talks "over a negotiated end to the war."

The daily quotes unnamed Afghan and Arab sources as saying they believe the Taliban representatives are authorized to speak for the Quetta Shura, the Afghan Taliban organization based in Pakistan, and its leader, Mohammad Omar.

compiled from Reuters reports