After 10 years of bloody battle in Afghanistan, the United States is trolling for Taliban officials to talk peace with before the July drawdown of American troops. Washingtons special envoy, Marc Grossman, has a one-point agenda: to reconcile Afghanistans warring factions, say Western diplomats in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But as Washington seeks negotiating partners, it has little knowledge of who among the Taliban has the clout to make talks worthwhile. Grossman, therefore, is trying for access to Mullah Omar, the one-eyed Taliban leader, according to Imtiaz Gul, head of the Centre for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad, Pakistans capital. In a meeting earlier this month in Islamabad, Gul said Grossman told him that he was looking for persons or groups who can provide us access to Mullah Omar, who can demonstrate their ability to approach Mullah Omar and get him on board, who can get through to Mullah Omar to open talks. Finding a genuine interlocutor is a slippery business. Heavily sanctioned and largely ostracized during their rule, many members of the Taliban leadership are not known to US officials. For example, late last year a Quetta shopkeeper posed as the Talibans former aviation minister, Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour, and met twice with Western officials before they realised they had been tricked. The Associated Press has also learned that the United States held a series of meetings with more than one Taliban member. There also has been contact with representatives of Hezb-e-Islami, a group led by US-declared terrorist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Haqqani network, considered by NATO and the US to be their deadliest enemy in Afghanistan. Earlier in May, the German weekly Der Speigel reported that Germany had helped US officials contact Mullah Omars personal secretary, Tayyab Aga. He was the last public voice of the Taliban before fighters fled southern Kandahar province in December 2001, shortly after US-led invasion. While Germany has been involved, opening of contact with Aga was an American initiative, a western diplomat in the region told the news agency. The last time Aga was seen in public was Nov 21, 2001 when he conducted a final Taliban press conference in Spin Boldak in southern Kandahar Province. The Taliban fled Kandahar on Dec 7, 2001 allowing Hamid Karzai to be named president and the US led coalition to announce that the Taliban had been routed countrywide. At that time, Aga was 25 and Omars personal secretary. A relative newcomer to the Taliban, Aga was not a member of the Taliban inner circle when it ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, nor did he have battlefield experience. But he spoke English well and was a prominent face in the last years of the Talibans rule, acting as Omars spokesman. Since 2001 his name has not emerged as a member of the so-called Quetta shura, named for Pakistans southeastern city where many of the Taliban are said to live or transit with relative ease. Its not clear whether Aga still has links to Omar or whether Omar has okayed the US contacts. Taliban have flatly denied anyone is talking to the US or to the Afghan government. Senior Pakistani security officials who spoke on condition they not be identified, said Omar is rigid in his refusal to negotiate. Aga is just one of several insurgents the US reportedly has approached either directly or indirectly to test their willingness to talk peace, according to western diplomats in the region. Others include former Taliban information minister Qatradullah Jamal. Lines also are out to Ibrahim Haqqani, a brother of group leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, as well as Hekmatyars representatives, they say. No one is calling the meetings negotiations, rather they are most often referred to as exploratory contacts. Hekmatyar, who has an unsavoury reputation, hid Osama bin Laden for at least 10 months after the Al-Qaeda leader fled the Tora Bora mountains of eastern Afghanistan in November 2001, according to testimony from prisoners at the US military lockup at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. During the Taliban rule Hekmatyar lived in exile in Iran. His fighters have deep animosity for the Taliban, further complicating US attempts at construct a political settlement among the warring factions. According to Afghan officials Hekmatyars warriors are fighting the Taliban in eastern Nangarhar province. Former Taliban have also told AP that Omar routinely told followers he would never talk to Hekmatyar, calling him duplicitous and untrustworthy. Hekmatyar, an ethnic Pashtun like most Taliban, also battled ferociously against the so-called Northern Alliance mostly of ethnic minorities and Washingtons allies in Kabul. It was together with the Northern Alliance that the US-led coalition ousted the Taliban in 2001. Yet the Northern Alliance also has a checkered past. When they last ruled Afghanistan between 1992 and 1996, until being thrown out by the Taliban, their relentless fighting destroyed giant swaths of Kabul and left 50,000 people, mostly civilians dead. Pakistan, which remains angry about the May 2 raid into the country by US Navy SEALS that killed Osama bin Laden, only complicates Washington efforts. Pakistans suspected links to the Taliban, as well as to both the Haqqanis and Hekmatyar makes its cooperation crucial to US efforts to find a political exit from Afghanistan, officials say. Nader Nadery of Afghanistans Human Rights Commission, said war fatigue in the United States and NATO was increasing pressure for talks that, he said, will bring a short term end to violence but lead to more fighting when the (US and NATO) forces leave. Huffington Post