Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday he's willing to talk with the Taliban chief in a bid to bring peace to the country if the move would have the backing of the United States and other international partners.
Karzai said in an interview with The Associated Press that "sections of the international community" had undermined previous peace overtures to the Taliban by harassing people "even though they had quit the insurgency." He said these were people he convinced to leave the movement but did not offer specific examples.
It was Karzai's first interview since President Barack Obama announced a new strategy for the Afghan war, including 30,000 US reinforcements. Obama said in his Tuesday address that if all went well, the US could begin withdrawing troops in July 2011.
"We must talk to the Taliban as an Afghan necessity. The fight against terrorism and extremism cannot be won by fighting alone," Karzai said, adding that he would be willing to talk with the Taliban's reclusive chief Mullah Omar.
"Personally, I would definitely talk to Mullah Omar," he added. "Whatever it takes to bring peace to Afghanistan, I, as the Afghan president, will do it. But I am also aware that it cannot be done by me alone without the backing of the international community."
Karzai offered to talk with Omar soon after the Taliban was ousted in the US-led invasion of 2001 but he backed off under US pressure. Since then he has offered to talk with Omar or other Taliban members who were willing to quit the insurgency.
Those offers produced few results and no talks with the Taliban chief.