President Karzai of Afghanistan has confirmed that his administration has been holding unofficial talks with the Taleban “for quite some time” in an attempt to end the nine-year war, and also denied reports that he is suffering from manic depression.
“We have been talking to the Taleban as countryman to countryman, talk in that manner,” Mr Karzai told CNN’s Larry King when asked about a report last week regarding secret high-level talks between the two sides.
“Not as a regular official contact with the Taleban with a fixed address but rather unofficial personal contacts have been going on for quite some time.”
Last week The Washington Post reported the secret talks were believed to involve the Afghan Government and representatives authorised by the Quetta Shura, the Afghan Taleban group based in Pakistan, and theTaleban leader Mullah Omar. It cited unnamed Afghan and Arab sources.
The Afghan leader said there had been “no official contacts with a known entity that reports to a body of Taleban and that comes back and reports to us regularly”.
“That hasn’t happened yet and we hope we can begin that as soon as possible,” he added.
“But contacts of course have been there between various elements of the Afghan Government at the level of community and also at a political level.”
The Karzai interview came as Afghanistan’s former president Burhanuddin Rabbani was elected chairman of a new peace council, a brainchild of Mr Karzai which was set up to broker an end to the war with the Taleban.
“Now that the peace council has come into existence, these talks will go on and will go on officially and more rigorously I hope,” Mr Karzai said.
In the wide-ranging interview with Mr King, the Afghan leader also denied reports that he is manic depressive, after the US ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, was quoted as saying of Mr Karzai: “He’s on his meds, he’s off his meds.”
“Oh definitely not. Rather funny,” Mr Karzai said when asked about the allegations in Bob Woodward’s new book Obama’s Wars, which claims that US intelligence suspects he has received treatment for manic depression.
Mr Karzai insisted that he only takes vitamins, headache pills, occasional antibiotics, and Tylenol for pain relief.
“The only medication that I have taken, is an antibiotic called Augmentin – the strongest ones I have taken when I had a bad cold two years ago,” Mr Karzai said.
“And I from time to time take multivitamins and vitamin C and of course a popular medicine in the US, Tylenol is something I use from time to time when I have a headache or when I’m tired.”