NEW YORK - A timetable for a withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan is what leaders of the Taliban and other armed groups want as the key element in a peace agreement with the Afghan government, a leading US newspaper reported Thursday. Citing Afghan officials, The New York Times reported peace talks were taking place through intermediaries and, if not the withdrawal proposals, are being supported by the Afghan government. The Obama administration, which has publicly declared its desire to coax moderate Taliban fighters away from armed struggle, says it is not involved in the discussions and will not be until the Taliban agree to lay down their arms, the Times said. But nor is it trying to stop the talks, and Afghan officials believe they have tacit support from the Americans, it added. In a dispatch from Kabul, correspondent of the Times wrote, The discussions have so far produced no agreements, since the insurgents appear to be insisting that any deal include an American promise to pull out - at the very time that the Obama administration is sending more combat troops to help reverse the deteriorating situation on the battlefield. Indeed, with 20,000 additional troops on the way, American commanders seem determined to inflict greater pain on the Taliban first, to push them into negotiations and extract better terms. And most of the initial demands are nonstarters for the Americans in any case. While the talks have been under way for months, they have accelerated since Obama took office and have produced more specific demands, the Afghan intermediaries said. The Taliban leaders, through their spokesman, and those of other armed groups publicly deny that they are involved in any negotiations. But several Afghans here and in Pakistan say they have been talking directly to the Taliban leadership group headed by Mullah Muhammad Omar. Discussions have also been held with representatives of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a longtime warlord and with Sirajuddin Haqqani, whose guerrilla army is based in the tribal areas of Pakistan, the dispatch said. America cannot win this war, and the Taliban cannot win this war, Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef, a former Taliban ambassador and one of the intermediaries, was quoted as telling The New York Times. Afghan officials said they welcomed the talks. The government has kept all channels of communication open, said Homayun Hamidzada, a spokesman for President Karzai. This includes the Taliban and Hekmatyar. American officials insist they are not participating in any talks. The US would support such efforts only if Taliban are willing to abandon violence and lay down their arms, and accept Afghanistans democratically elected government, said Ian Kelly, a State Department spokesman. Still, two of the principal intermediaries, Zaeef and Daoud Abedi, said they had held extensive discussions with American officials. A State Department memo described a single meeting with Abedi, but said it ended abruptly because American officials were not permitted to meet with representatives of Hekmatyar, The Times said. Abedi, an Afghan-American businessman from California and a member of Hekmatyars political party, the Islamic Party, said he conducted negotiations in March. Abedi was cited as saying he hammered out a common set of demands between the Taliban and Hekmatyars group. The groups agreed to stop fighting if those conditions were met, Abedi said. The Talibans demands seem incompatible with much of Obamas strategy, which is to substantially weaken the Taliban through a combination of military force and economic development, the dispatch said. The first demand was an immediate pullback of American and other foreign forces to their bases, followed by a cease-fire and a total withdrawal from the country over the next 18 months. Then the current government would be replaced by a transitional government made up of a range of Afghan leaders, including those of the Taliban and other insurgents. Americans and other foreign soldiers would be replaced with a peacekeeping force drawn from predominantly Muslim nations, with a guarantee from the insurgent groups that they would not attack such a force. Nationwide elections would follow after the Western forces left. As for Hekmatyar, Abedi said that he maintained a direct link with him, and that he was authorized to negotiate on his behalf. He did not meet with Afghan government officials. After the agreement between the Taliban and the Islamic Party was reached, Abedi said, the Taliban leaders added more conditions: an end to the drone attacks in Pakistans tribal areas, and the release of some Taliban prisoners. Abedi said that when he returned to the United States with his proposal, he was greeted with enthusiasm by officials at the State Department. But he said they never called him back.