Talking to the Taliban

The Obama administration has affirmed that, while it will not participate directly, it supports the idea of peace negotiations between the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government. But the success of talks with the Taliban cannot be separated from the situation on the battlefield.

WASHINGTON, DC – The Obama administration has affirmed that, while it will not participate directly, it supports the idea of peace negotiations between the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government. This nod from the White House followed the publication of reports that representatives of Afghan President Hamid Karzai had begun preliminary high-level talks regarding a possible coalition government and an agreed timetable for a NATO military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The issue of negotiating a rapprochement between Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban is undoubtedly controversial. The hope is that the Taliban leadership is not cohesive – that, whereas some of its members are probably committed to al-Qaeda’s absolutist ideology, others might accept a compromise settlement.

Karzai and Western leaders have repeatedly insisted that their reconciliation offer does not extend to al-Qaeda members, who are seen as alien foreign elements whose extremist convictions and past terrorist activities make them unacceptable negotiating partners. Although al-Qaeda and the Taliban are united in their desire to expel Western troops from Afghanistan and reestablish a strict Islamic government in which they enjoy a monopoly of political and religious power, some Taliban leaders might accept more moderate goals.

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