Headway in Taliban talks may be months off: Gates


It could be months before efforts to broker a peace deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban bear fruit, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said in an interview aired on Sunday. Gates, who steps down at the end of the month, said there had been contacts between United States and the Taliban in recent weeks, headed by the State Department.
“There’s been outreach on the – on the part of a number of countries, including the United States. I would say that these contacts are very preliminary at this point,” he told CNN. The comments from the outgoing US defence chief were aired a day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced the United States was in contact with the Taliban, a striking public acknowledgment of a peace initiative that has been cloaked with secrecy.
The comments come as President Barack Obama prepares to announce the size and nature of the initial US drawdown from Afghanistan nearly 10 years after the Sept 11 attacks. But Gates cautioned the peace initiative would be fraught with challenges, including locating members of the Taliban who could credibly speak for its Pakistan-based leadership.
“My own view is that real reconciliation talks are not likely to be able to make any substantive headway until at least this winter,” he said.