Here’s the quick version of the Washington Post story today headlined: “US speeds up direct talks with the Taliban.” Talks, first reported by Steve Coll in The New Yorker in February, are underway between the United States and the Taliban. There’s talk of setting up a Taliban office in Qatar, adding to earlier reports that Turkey had also offered its territory for a Taliban office. Talks have taken place in Qatar and Germany with officials close to Mullah Omar (and not an impostor this time!). And the talks have “advanced significantly.”
This is all good news.
When I discussed this possibility last month with General Douglas Lute, President Obama’s top adviser on Afghanistan, I told him that after a decade of demonizing the Taliban it wouldn’t be easy to get Americans on board with the idea of a negotiated deal that gives the Taliban a share of power. He agreed, saying, “We have a lot of work to do.” Stories like this are part of the White House’s effort to prepare public opinion for a settlement.
Reports the Post:
“The administration has accelerated direct talks with the Taliban, initiated several months ago, that US officials say they hope will enable President Obama to report progress toward a settlement of the Afghanistan war when he announces troop withdrawals in July.
“A senior Afghan official said a US representative attended at least three meetings in Qatar and Germany, one as recently as ‘eight or nine days ago,’ with a Taliban official considered close to Mohammad Omar, the group’s leader.”
Read the whole piece.