Mr Grossman, the replacement for special envoy Richard Holbrooke, has been nicknamed “Mr Reconciliation” and has been told to focus on tying up an agreement that will speed up the return of American troops.

American officials had already contacted Tayyab Aga, Mullah Omar’s personal secretary, who was the last public voice of the Taliban in 2001. Analysts believe that President Barack Obama, with Osama bin Laden dead and an economic crisis at home, could announce a larger than expected initial withdrawal this year – at least 10,000 troops – although no announcement has yet been made…

Mr Gul said that time was running out to strike a political deal between Afghanistan’s warring factions.

“They [the Americans] are desperate. The timeline has already been announced so they are operating by the idiom ‘the sooner the better’,” he said.