Britain's MI6 in secret talks with Taliban, paper says

British officers have sought peace directly with the Taliban, The Daily Telegraph reports.

uk soldiers 224.8 (photo credit: AP)
uk soldiers 224.8
(photo credit: AP)
British spies organized secret meetings with senior Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan over the summer, a newspaper reported Wednesday. Officers from Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6, have engaged in peace talks with up to a dozen Taliban officials, according to The Daily Telegraph, which cited an unidentified intelligence source. "The SIS officers were understood to have sought peace directly with the Taliban, with some of them coming across as some sort of armed militia," The Telegraph quoted the source as saying. "The British would provide mentoring for the Taliban." Although Britain and its NATO allies are currently engaged in a fierce campaign to root out resurgent Taliban militants from Afghanistan's south, both British and Afghan officials have voiced increasing interest in trying to talk the Taliban into laying down their arms and persuading them to join the government. But how far Western powers or Afghan officials should go to woo militants from the Taliban fold is still being debated. Two weeks ago British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told lawmakers the Taliban could win a role in the Afghanistan's future if they renounced violence - although he explicitly ruled out direct talks with ex-Taliban fighters. On Tuesday, the Afghan government expelled two senior European diplomats accused of holding unauthorized meetings with the insurgents. Britain's Foreign Office did not immediately return a phone message Wednesday, a national holiday in Britain. The Telegraph said the meetings were held up to half a dozen times on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand province, the southern region that has seen the heaviest fighting in Afghanistan this year. The meetings took place in the presence of Afghan officials in compounds secured by the British military, the paper said. It quoted its source as saying that the British spies believed the insurgents engaged in the talks to be "important motivating figures inside the Taliban."