WASHINGTON - The US is actively considering holding talks with elements of the Taliban in an effort to reverse a downward spiral in the security situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday in what the newspaper called a major policy shift that would have been unthinkable a few months ago. Citing unnamed administration officials, the report said a classified White House assessment of US strategy in Afghanistan includes a draft recommendation to engage some members of the Taliban, while excluding top leaders. The recommendation calls for the talks to be led by the Afghan government, with the participation of US officials, according to the report. The idea is supported by General David Petraeus, who assumes responsibility this week for US policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the newspaper reported. Petraeus used a similar approach in Iraq, where the US enlisted the support of Sunni tribesmen in the fight against al-Qaeda. The US would be willing to pay moderate Taliban members to lay down their weapons and join the political process, the Journal cited an unidentified US official as saying. The Central Intelligence Agency has been mapping Afghanistan's tribal areas in an attempt to understand the allegiances of clans and tribes, according to the report. The final White House recommendation is expected next month after the US presidential elections, the report said. The next administration wouldn't be compelled to implement them, the report said. But the support of Gen Petraeus, the highly regarded incoming head of the US Central Command, could help ensure that the policy is put in place regardless of who wins next month's elections. The proposed policy appears to strike rare common ground with both presidential candidates. Democratic nominee Sen Barack Obama has said he thinks talks with the Taliban should be considered and has advocated shifting more military forces to Afghanistan. Republican contender Sen. John McCain supports, as part of his strategy, reaching out to tribal leaders in an effort to separate "the reconcilable elements of the insurgency from the irreconcilable elements of the insurgency," Randy Scheunemann, the campaign's top foreign-policy adviser, said Monday. The US policy review is taking place against the backdrop of ongoing talks between Taliban sympathisers and Afghan government officials. The negotiations, which have been held in recent weeks in Saudi Arabia and moderated by Saudi officials, have primarily involved former Taliban members who have since left the armed group. But a US official said some of the discussions have included current Taliban members and others with close ties to the group's leadership. The report said, "US talks would have to overcome years of mutual distrust, a US policy that has favoured arrest rather than outreach, and some doubts over whether participants on the Taliban side would be credible. But the possibility of US talks with Taliban officials comes amid a wholesale restructuring of American policy in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. "The US has endorsed a Pakistani move to arm thousands of anti-Taliban fighters along the country's porous border with Afghanistan, and senior American officials say they are considering creating similar local militias in Afghanistan as well."