KABUL, Afghanistan - Efforts to start peace talks with the Taliban appear to be gaining traction, with the head of the Afghan peace council saying Saturday that it has been in contact with three factions of the insurgent movement.
Other signs also suggest that discussions with insurgents are moving forward.
Marc Grossman, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, has reached out directly or indirectly to three insurgent groups, although it is unclear how the efforts by the peace council and the U.S. dovetail, Western officials said.
This month, a United Nations Security Council committee will decide on taking the names of more than 30 Taliban figures off the organization's terrorist blacklist, which could let intermediaries travel abroad to hold talks.
The Taliban publicly insists it has no interest in negotiating peace as long as foreign troops occupy Afghanistan. President Obama is due to decide on U.S. troop reductions in the next few weeks.
Richard Barrett, coordinator for the U.N.'s al-Qaeda and Taliban monitoring team, said Afghan President Hamid Karzai had requested that just under 50 Taliban figures be taken off the sanctions list, which keeps them subject to an asset freeze and travel ban. More than 100 Taliban figures are on the list.
The U.N Security Council committee monitoring the sanctions will decide on June 16 on the latest group of roughly 30 individuals, Barrett said. The Afghan government has given the committee extensive dossiers on about 20 of them with information about why it believes these individuals should no longer be sanctioned, he said.
Russia, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council that holds veto power, has been reluctant to approve requests to delist members of the Taliban. Barrett, however, said the Russians could be amenable in some cases.