WASHINGTON - The United States and its allies are stepping up negotiations with representatives of Mullah Omar and other Taliban commanders and offering cash and jobs to low-level fighters in a bid to persuade them to lay down their arms, an American newspaper reported on Friday. The efforts, coupled with an increased US military presence in Afghanistan, are meant to weaken the insurgency and promote a negotiated end to the regions violence, The Washington Times (WT) said in a dispatch. The strategy is to peel away so many fighters from the insurgent chiefs that they will be left like floating icebergs and have no one left to command, Kenneth Katzman, an Afghanistan specialist at the Congressional Research Service, was quoted as saying. Several Pakistani, Middle Eastern and US officials said in interviews with the newspaper that Saudi and Pakistani officials, acting with tacit American encouragement, are talking with second tier Taliban leaders connected with Mullah Omar. The WT claimed recently that Mullah Omar has been hiding in the Pakistani metropolis of Karachi and was brought there with the knowledge of Pakistani intelligence. Youve got a lot of players involved in the effort, an unnamed US official with knowledge of the talks was quoted as saying, not just within the US government, but foreign partners, too. The official added, US intelligence isnt the lead on talking to members of the Afghan Taliban who may be interested in discussing reconciliation. But when it makes sense, the [U.S.] intelligence community is brought in for its expertise, relationships and judgement. Such meetings were reported to have taken place in the Saudi holy city of Makkah in September 2008, but they continue elsewhere today. Katzman said Qayyum Karzai, a brother of the Afghan president, participated in the 2008 talks. He also said there were meetings in January in Saudi Arabia and contacts in the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, along with Pakistan, were the only countries that recognised the Taliban when it ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, The Washington Times said. A Western diplomat based in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, who asked not to be named, confirmed that Pakistani and Saudi officials are using their connections and influence within Afghan Taliban to elicit some meaningful way to end the deadlock. A senior Pakistani official who is familiar with the talks and also asked not to be named said that the US is trying to leverage the Taliban in order to find a resolution to the war in accordance with President Obamas strategy. Saudi Embassy officials in Washington declined to confirm or deny the talks. But Noel Clay, a State Department spokesman, said the Obama administration supports efforts towards reconciliation with the Taliban as long as certain criteria are met. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton laid out those criteria in a speech in July. We and our Afghan allies stand ready to welcome anyone supporting the Taliban who renounces al Qaeda, lays down their arms, and is willing to participate in the free and open society that is enshrined in the Afghan Constitution, she said. Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst who headed Obamas first Afghanistan-Pakistan review, said such approaches are worth exploring, but I would not expect to see tangible progress until the security situation changes in Afghanistan. Its highly unlikely that people will switch from the perceived winning side, he said. If you change the momentum on the battlefield and the Taliban is no longer seen as the winner, you may see the fractures come to the front. The United States hopes to achieve that change of momentum by adding 30,000 troops to its force in the country. Katzman and Riedel said it would be easiest to make a deal with followers of Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, a former Mujahideen fighter against the Soviet Union who has already authorised some of his followers to join the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, according to The Washington Times. Katzman said little progress has been made with Mullah Omar or another insurgent leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani.