Toby Harnden and Ben Farmer
London Telegraph
May 17, 2011

Discussions were initiated before the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2 but American and British diplomats believe that the death of the al-Qaeda leader could give added impetus to the talks and the drawdown of Nato troops, due to begin in July.

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President Barack Obama, whose hand has been strengthened by the successful operation to bring bin Laden to justice, is believed to be contemplating a withdrawal of several thousand American troops, some 100,000 of whom are in Afghanistan.

David Cameron has made clear he is prepared to follow suit with a withdrawal of a proportionately similar number of British troops. There are currently about 10,000 British personnel in Afghanistan, most of them concentrated in central and southern Helmand.

Previous talks broke down when a supposed Taliban leader flown into Kabul in a Nato plane was revealed to be a shopkeeper trying to make some money. Other attempts at dialogue have foundered because would-be emissaries could not be confirmed as genuine.

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