In recent months, Secretary of State Clinton and others have expressed hope that parts of the Taliban who are open to “dialogue” might be split off from their more outwardly “extreme” brethren. But as always, “war is deceit,” and the Taliban can be expected to exploit the opportunity to gain legitimacy, perhaps even emerging at some point as a Hizballah-like “political party” that also happens to function as a state-within-a-state with its own armed forces. (The move toward Taliban “political” offices in Turkey are another step in that direction.) In the short term, they will also use the pretense of dialogue to buy time for their military operations.
“Robert Gates confirms US-Taliban talks in Afghanistan,” from BBC News, June 19:
Outgoing US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has confirmed that the US is holding “outreach” talks with members of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Mr Gates said talks were “preliminary” but that a political solution was the way “most of these wars end”.
It is the first time the US has acknowledged such contact and comes a day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai said peace talks had started.
The US is due to start withdrawing its 97,000 troops from Afghanistan in July.
It aims to gradually hand over all security operations to Afghan security forces by 2014.
“There’s been outreach on the part of a number of countries, including the United States,” Mr Gates told CNN., without naming other countries involved.
“I would say that these contacts are very preliminary.
“My own view is that real reconciliation talks are not likely to be able to make any substantive headway until at least this winter.”
‘Time to engage’
Mr Gates, who will leave office at the end of the month, said the first step had been to ensure the contacts were genuine and influential Taliban members.
“We don’t want to end up having a conversation at some point with somebody who is basically a freelancer.”
Mr Karzai said on Saturday that peace talks involving Afghan officials, the US and other “foreign militaries” were taking place and were “going well”….