Kabul: The West wants to pull out of Afghanistan "with or without a settlement" and attempts to negotiate with the Taliban are unlikely to lead to lasting peace, a report by a respected think-tank said on Monday.

In a hard-hitting document the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) condemned "desperate and dangerous moves" by Hamid Karzai's government to bring Taliban, the allied Haqqani Network and other insurgents to the negotiating table.

If a deal appeared to give the Taliban preferential treatment it was "likely to spark a significant backlash from the Northern Alliance, Hezb-i Islami and other major factions", it said.

Without a sustainable settlement, after international forces pull out "all indicators point to a fragile political order that could rapidly disintegrate into a more virulent civil war", it said.

Afghanistan has seen several periods of vicious conflict in its recent history, with the mujahedin resistance against Soviet troops followed by civil war among the various groups.

The Taliban regime of 1996-2001 never controlled the whole of the country, and since it was deposed it has been waging an insurgency of its own against Karzai's government and the Western forces backing it.

"The international community's most urgent priority is to exit Afghanistan with or without a settlement," the ICG said.

"The negotiating agenda has been dominated by Washington's desire to obtain a decent interval between the planned US troop drawdown and the possibility of another bloody chapter in the conflict."

But the document warned, "No matter how much the US and its NATO allies want to leave Afghanistan, it is unlikely that a Washington-brokered power-sharing agreement will hold long enough to ensure that the achievements of the last decade are not reversed."

It said the process should instead be mediated by the United Nations.

(Agencies)