Is anyone really talking with the Taliban?

It is always difficult to get a fix on negotiations that necessarily occur behind the scenes, even if “secret” is a category that rarely holds tight these days.  Talks, or non-talks, or talks about talks, held while fighting is still going on are particularly hard to fathom.

Afghanistan Analysts Network offers a blog blow by blow of recent action:   http://aan-afghanistan.com/index.asp?id=1286

Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit takes a hard look at Kabul’s latest program and finds it lacking:  Peace At All Costs?  Reintegration and Reconciliation in Afghanistan, see http://www.areu.org.af/

Crisis States Research Centre offers a UN-eyed perspective, but one that fails to cover events past 2008, even though it was published recently:   http://www.crisisstates.com/download/wp/wpSeries2/WP66.2.pdf

Best on the meaning of “reconciliation” in the Afghanistan context is still Michael Semple’s Reconciliation in Afghanistan:   http://bookstore.usip.org/books/BookDetail.aspx?productID=215572

The key question to ask about all of this is not the journalistic “who what where when why?”  More important is what the Americans might be offering as incentives for reconciliation.  Control over territory?  Positions in the Kabul government, or governors’ positions in the provinces?  A license to trade poppy?  Promises on withdrawal?

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