Afghan Gov't Could Hold Talks With Former Top Taliban Official

The Afghan government might hold talks with a former top Taliban (search) official, but only if it determines he has no complicity in terrorism or crimes against the Afghan people, the president's spokesman said Thursday.

Former Foreign Minister Abdul Wakil Mutawakil (search) recently offered to assist President Hamid Karzai's (search) government in quelling tension inside the country in exchange for his freedom from U.S. custody.

Karzai recently said he welcomed members of the Taliban rank-and-file not responsible for the hard-line movement's actions, presidential spokesman Jawid Luddin (search) said.

Some responses came from Afghans in Pakistan who say they are resisting pressure to return home to fight foreign troops and Karzai's central government.

Taliban insurgents mounted increasing attacks over the summer against international troops, aid workers and government forces. On Thursday in southern Afghanistan, some 1,000 Afghan forces and more than 300 coalition troops were hunting down former Taliban leaders.

"They don't want to be associated with the kind of terrorism that's still, unfortunately, persisting in Afghanistan and trying to destabilize it," Luddin said. "People who want to return to their homes and villages and live their normal life — they are most welcome."

Luddin said the highest-level contact so far has come from Mutawakil.

"Now that we have received these contacts, the question is whether we will respond to it. We haven't decided yet," Luddin said.

Recent reports suggested Mutawakil returned to his hometown Kandahar (search), the former Taliban stronghold. However, Luddin said Thursday that Mutawakil, considered a moderate in the Taliban regime, is still held at Bagram, the U.S. military headquarters north of Kabul.

U.S. military spokesman Col. Rodney Davis (search) said Thursday that detainees' whereabouts are never revealed.

Karzai's government no longer recognizes the Taliban as a movement. U.S.-led coalition forces drove the Taliban from power in 2001 for granting sanctuary to the al-Qaida terrorist network and declared Taliban fighters outlaws.

If the government were to talk with any former Taliban members it would only be on an individual basis "and based on national interests of Afghanistan," Luddin said.