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Taliban Refuses To Enter NATO Peace Talks

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Round-up of today's AfPak news:

Taliban rule out peace talks. A new statement by the insurgent group, citing divisions within NATO over withdrawal deadlines and recent military setbacks for allied forces, states that the Taliban will not enter negotiations with any group until all NATO forces withdraw from the country. Part of the statement reads: "we are certain that we are winning. Why should we talk if we have the upper hand, and the foreign troops are considering withdrawal, and there are differences in the ranks of our enemies?" [Telegraph]

Holbrooke, Eikenberry face uncertain future. With Gen. David Petraeus poised to become the key broker in talks with the Afghan and Pakistani governments, observers are wondering what, if any, role Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry will play in the region. Of the two, Eikenberry's future is most in doubt—the White House has reportedly considered replacing him with Ryan Crocker, Petraeus's former civilian counterpart in Iraq, if he cannot work with Petraeus. Holbrooke's position, on the other hand, is more secure now that he has carved out a new role for himself persuading European allies and leading Arab powers to increase their commitments to Afghanistan. [NYT]

Brits oppose "hasty" withdrawal. In a speech to the Heritage Foundation yesterday, British defense secretary Liam Fox took a swipe at Democrats urging for a rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying that "to leave [Afghanistan] before the job is finished would leave us less safe and less secure." In Fox's view, NATO troops should withdraw only when the Afghan government can secure its own borders and reach a peace settlement with insurgents. [McClatchy]

Select Afghan military officers to train in Pakistan. Between a handful and a few dozen Afghan officers will train in Pakistan under the agreement, which Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed without informing Washington. The deal is a sign that Karzai is relying more and more heavily on Pakistan as he seeks new partners willing to prop up his government after NATO troops withdraw. [WashPo]