WASHINGTON — The United States is looking at negotiating with "reconciliable" members of the Taliban in Afghanistan prepared to give up violence and respect the Afghan constitution, a US official said Tuesday.
"We are clearly, as I said, under the strategic review, trying to see if our engagement with any reconcilable elements makes sense," the State Department official told reporters on the condition of anonymity.
"If people are willing to renounce violence, give up their arms ... it makes sense," said the official.
Talks could take place, he added, if they "give up their arms, renounce violence, pledge allegiance to the Afghanistan constitution and become part of the political process instead of getting in the way of the political process."
The official was confirming a report in the Wall Street Journal which said the United States is considering taking part in talks with elements of the Taliban in a sharp change in tactics in Afghanistan.
Officially, the Bush administration will not say that such a new approach is being considered as part of an early draft of a classified White House strategic review of Afghanistan. The final version is due in weeks.
And both the White House and the Pentagon voiced skepticism about the chances of success for such a strategy, one that Defense Secretary Robert Gates raised on October 6.
"We remain skeptical that there are some Taliban that would actually renounce violence, and renounce extremism, and work for the greater good of Afghanistan," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters.
"So we'll let the Afghanis come forward with their ideas, we have our strategic review underway as well, but we do recognize the need to try to reconcile with some of these elements, and we've been able to do that in other parts of the world," she said.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman echoed the skepticism.
"It is important for all the people of Afghanistan to stand together, to create a lasting peace, a credible government and a prosperous country," Whitman said.
"That said, at this point it is somewhat unclear and remains to be seen if some of the internal extremist threats will renounce violence and play a constructive role in the Afghan society," he said.
Pakistani and Afghan officials and tribal leaders agreed Tuesday to make contact with Taliban militants in an attempt to end the raging insurgent violence along their porous border.
The declaration came after two days of talks in Islamabad aimed at finding a lasting solution to the unrest which has wracked the region since the US-led toppling of Afghanistan's Taliban regime in 2001.
It follows the revelation that the Afghan government met with former members of the Taliban government for talks in Saudi Arabia.
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