If you’re interested in a "way forward" in
Some key points, based on conversations with Afghan officials and Western diplomats in
• Far from being "pie in the sky," discussions with the Taliban leadership are already underway and could be developed into more formal talks with the support of the
• Officials with contacts within the Taliban said the current discussions had been productive.
• The peace process might have made greater progress already if the Afghan government and the
• Afghan parliamentarians involved in the talks said they were waiting for President Karzai to secure guarantees of support for the process from foreign governments – in particular the
• Negotiations should be expanded to a broad spectrum of Taliban leaders; a policy of talking only to "moderates" is doomed to failure; negotiations have to be conducted with broad consultation among the Taliban leadership and through Pashtun tribal leaders and elders.
• As part of the ongoing negotiations, the Taliban are demanding an end to house searches and arrests, and the release of Taliban detainees from Afghan jails and the
[Those seem like negotiable demands, don't you think? It's not as if they're insisting that "The official language of Afghanistan will now be Swedish" or "Everyone has to change their underwear three times a day, and they have to wear them on the outside, so we can check."]
The point that the
Last weekend, President Obama "signaled that reconciliation could emerge as an important initiative" as part of his review of
The problem with the reconciliation process, officials say, is that it demanded that the Taliban lay down their arms in return for security guarantees, which they did not trust either the government to enforce or the Americans to honor.
"We make reconciliation sound like surrender; where has that ever worked?" said one Western official with long experience in
A recent ABC poll found that 64 percent of Afghans support negotiations with the Taliban. The Afghan government – whatever its faults, a government selected by a political process endorsed by the