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Two days of talks with Taliban begin

PARIS — A year that began with hope that members of the Taliban were ready to start talking peace is ending with a final initiative — informal talks outside Paris among Afghanistan’s competing factions, including militants — that, if anything, exemplifies how little progress has been made in 2012 toward opening negotiations to end the war.

The talks, which began Thursday and are to last two days, have been promoted as the first time the Taliban have sat down with their former enemies in Afghanistan’s old Northern Alliance, a collection of militias that fought Taliban rule in the 1990s and eventually helped the United States oust the Islamist movement. Afghan government peace negotiators were also attending, as were representatives from an insurgent faction independent of the Taliban.

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But going into the meetings, both the Taliban and many old Northern Alliance leaders were clear about their lack of expectations. Abdullah Abdullah, an opposition politician and former presidential candidate, said the meetings were not a breakthrough.

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