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UN Organizing Informal Talks With All Afghan Factions

Jan Kubis, the United Nations special representative in Afghanistan
The head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, Jan Kubis, has said the United Nations is organizing informal talks that it hopes will attract "all relevant forces and people" in Afghanistan.

Kubis said the Track II talks should involve as many "stakeholders in Afghanistan" as possible, including antigovernment groups such as the Taliban.

Kubis said these are not peace talks and added, "We are not going to tell the Afghans what they have to think."

Kubis said the aim was to bring various Afghan groups together to discuss the country's future, especially after 2014, when the majority of foreign forces will have withdrawn from Afghanistan.

Kubis said the first of these meeting should take place before the end of this year.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has made a surprise visit to Afghanistan, seeking assurances from President Hamid Karzai that he is doing all he can to halt "insider attacks."

The prime minister’s office said Gillard met Karzai on October 14 in Kabul and visited Australian troops.

She raised concerns about the so-called "green-on-blue" attacks in which uniformed Afghans turn their weapons against their international allies.

On August 30, Australia suffered its deadliest day when five troops were killed in two separate incidents in Afghanistan.

Australia is a close ally of the United States. Its Afghan deployment began in 2001.

It announced this year that it would begin withdrawing its forces in 2013, earlier than planned.

Based on reporting by AFP, RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan, dpa, and Interfax