THE Afghan Government has failed to secure direct talks with the Taliban and no significant progress is expected before 2014, when most Nato combat troops withdraw, a senior Afghan official closely involved with reconciliation efforts has said.

A political settlement between the Afghan government and insurgents is widely seen as the best way of delivering stability to the country before most Nato combat troops pull out at the end of 2014.

Afghan officials were also hoping to make progress in reconciliation efforts before presidential elections in April 2014 to decrease the chances of prolonged instability in a nation that has suffered through decades of war.

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"There have been contacts here and there but no face-to-face talks have taken place," the Afghan official said of the bid to engage the Taliban.

"There have been none in Afghanistan or other countries."

There has also been scant progress on other fronts. The Taliban said in March they were suspending nascent peace talks with the United States held in Qatar, blaming "erratic and vague" US statements. The Afghan official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, suggested the contacts that had been made with the Taliban had been limited.

"The contacts have taken place mostly at the provincial level.

"For instance, an official may meet Taliban commanders and urge them not to attack schools," he said.

Regional power Pakistan, which has a long history of ties to Afghan insurgent groups, was in a strong position to help stabilise Afghanistan, but needed to do more, said the official.

Islamabad denies claims it uses Afghan insurgent groups as proxies in Afghanistan and has pledged to do all it can to end the fighting.

The official added: "In practice, they need to facilitate faster."