Nato troops killed in Afghan blast

Three deaths in the country's west come as Nato claims it is facilitating talks between Taliban and Karzai's government.

    Karzai says he has opened contacts with the Taliban as a step towards ending the war in Afghanistan [AFP]

    Three soldiers from the Isaf force have been killed in a home-made bomb explosion in western Afghanistan, the Nato-led force in the country says.

    The International Security Assistance Force said on Thursday the attack occurred in western Afghanistan but did not immediately provide further details on the nationalities of the casualties or on the attacks.

    Troops from the US, Italy, Spain and Lithuania are based in western Afghanistan.

    Thursday's deaths brought to 584 the number of foreign soldiers killed this year, eclipsing the previous record of 521 in 2009. The  AFP tally is based on a count by the independent website icasualties.org.

    At least 35 foreign soldiers have died in Afghanistan this month alone. Six US soldiers were killed in attacks on Wednesday and four Italian soldiers in a single bombing in western Afghanistan last week.

    The surge in military deaths has followed the deployment of about 40,000 extra US and Nato troops under a White House strategy designed to clear major towns and cities of the Taliban and restore confidence in the government.

    The violence continues despite fresh efforts by Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, to patch up a deal with fighters who distance themselves from al-Qaeda, inaugurating a High Council for Peace.

    In a related development, a Nato official in Brussels has disclosed that the alliance sometimes allowed Taliban fighters to travel to Kabul to hold talks with the Afghan  government as part of efforts to support Karzai's peace initiative.

    The Taliban has always publicly denied that its leaders are in  talks. And on Wednesday, the group again denied it is holding peace talks with the Afghan government.

    In a statement the Taliban said that Karzai's claims that such talks are being held are "baseless propaganda".

    Karzai claims

    In the latest claim, Karzai has told Al Jazeera's Frost over the World programme, to be aired on Friday, that he had face-to-face meetings with senior members of the Taliban.

    "I have had personal meetings with some Taliban leaders and my colleagues from my government have had some meetings in and outside Afghanistan with the Taliban," he told Al Jazeera's David Frost.

    "These have mostly been unofficial after contact was initiated, countryman to countryman talks. But now is the time for us to begin to talk with the Taliban at a fixed address and with a more open agenda to tell us how to bring peace to Afghanistan and Pakistan."

    But the Taliban statement contested Karzai's claim, saying that "the enemy has never contacted the leaders of the Islamic Emirate [Afghanistan], let alone holding any kind of talks with them.

    "Nor any effort has been made by the enemy, directly or indirectly, to initiate contacts with the leadership of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan".

    The Taliban also said that negotiating with the Karzai government "in conditions of foreign military presence in Afghanistan, is a waste of time".

    "It is not only harmful for achievement of the goal of independence of Afghanistan and establishment of a true Islamic government but gives legitimacy to the current [military] occupation of Afghanistan," it said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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