NATO has suffered another deadly day in Afghanistan with eight soldiers lost, five killed in roadside bombs.
The attacks in the west, east, and south of the country bring the total to 589 foreign soldiers killed, the worst year so far.
While NATO intensifies operations in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates was at a NATO meeting in Brussels. Both the NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Gates gave the strongest hints yet that talking with Taliban is on the agenda.
“We have always acknowledged that reconciliation has to be part of the solution ultimately in Afghanistan and we will do whatever we can to support that process,” said Gates.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been pursuing reconciliation for some time, overcoming American scepticism, and now has a council of 68 tribal leaders and a former president, Burhanuddin Rabbani, as mediator. It appears also NATO troops are granting safe passage to Taliban leaders going for talks in Kabul, but the Taliban continues to deny talks are underway.
However it has also emerged that for the first time all the major insurgent groups, the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Omar, the Haqqani network and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-ul-Islami Gulbuddin, are involved along with Karzai’s government, Pakistan, and Washington.