Secret talks with Taliban near a critical juncture
So say some leakers who are in the know. I question the wisdom of placing too much stock in these discussions simply because the Taliban has absolutely no need to agree to anything. We're leaving, remember?
The officials acknowledged that the Afghanistan diplomacy, which has reached a delicate stage in recent weeks, remains a long shot. Among the complications: U.S. troops are drawing down and will be mostly gone by the end of 2014, potentially reducing the incentive for the Taliban to negotiate.
Still, the senior officials, all of whom insisted on anonymity to share new details of the mostly secret effort, suggested it has been a much larger piece of President Barack Obama's Afghanistan policy than is publicly known.
U.S. officials have held about half a dozen meetings with their insurgent contacts, mostly in Germany and Doha with representatives of Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban's Quetta Shura, the officials said.
The stakes in the diplomatic effort could not be higher.
Failure would likely condemn Afghanistan to continued conflict, perhaps even civil war, after NATO troops finish turning security over to Karzai's weak government by the end of 2014.
Success would mean a political end to the war and the possibility that parts of the Taliban - some hardliners seem likely to reject the talks - could be reconciled.
The effort is now at a pivot point.
That's just about the time the ground shifts underneath your feet.
Seriously, would you believe the Taliban if they renounced "international terrorism?" That's one of the "confidence building measures" that the US wants to see from the group that harbored bin Laden. In exchange for that, we would release some Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo.
Why make the effort? Within a couple of months of our final withdrawal, Karzai will likely be hanging from a lampost in Kabul. If we're going to hand Afghanistan back to the Taliban, we might as well skip the diplomatic window dressing.