Despite official assertions to the contrary, The Observer has discovered that key NATO countries including Britain and France, in liaison with Saudi Arabia are holding negotiations with top Taliban leadership to end the conflict in Afghanistan. Officials in Afghanistan have confirmed the talks adding further that they are aimed at wedging apart the Taliban from Al Qaeda.

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There are differences in the language being used, but there is a broad consensus emerging among US, UK, NATO and UN that the Afghan war can not be won by military means alone. That political negotiations are necessary. Here's an excerpt from a BBC report on this subject:

(US Defense Secretary) Mr. Gates said despite challenges, there was no reason to think success could not be achieved in the long run.

But he endorsed the recommendation by Brig Mark Carleton-Smith that a resolution to the conflict would require negotiations with the Taleban.

Earlier, Nato-led forces said they also supported opening talks with militants.

Brig Richard Blanchette, the spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said there could be no military solution.

The UN Special Representative in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, made similar comments.

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