…Taliban fighters stand alongside kidnapped Polish geologist Piotr Stanczak
…minutes before he was beheaded...Reuters photo….
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (NYT) — American officials have met with a senior aide to the fugitive Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, at least three times in recent months in the first direct exploratory peace talks, officials in the region said.
The meetings have been facilitated by Germany and Qatar, but American officials have been present each time, meeting with Tayeb Agha, who is a close personal assistant to Mullah Omar, the officials said. The C.I.A. and the State Department have been involved in the meetings, one official said.
The meetings were first reported by The Washington Post last week and the German magazine Der Spiegel this week. A senior Afghan official and Western officials working in the region confirmed the reports on the condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to talk to the news media about the issue.
Begun well before the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2, the meetings represent a clear shift in the attitude of the Obama administration toward peace talks with the Taliban, first signaled by a speech in February by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Western officials said. In that speech Mrs. Clinton said that previous requirements for starting talks could instead be considered “desired outcomes,” opening the way to exploratory meetings without preconditions. via bokertov.typepad.com