The reports of the Afghan government seeking some kind of rapprochement with the Taliban seem stronger than ever, and in a move which General David Petraeus said he supports earlier this month the United States may be considering not just backing the talks but being directly involved in them.
The move is not expected to come until after next week’s Presidential election, and will reportedly not include the higher ranking Taliban officials. The push for a new strategy in Afghanistan seems all the more important as the violence spirals out of control and the disillusioned civilian population turns on President Hamid Karzai. Admiral Michael Mullen says that he expects the situation to grow even worse next year.
The Taliban has denied participating in any peace talks, which the Saudi government is reportedly trying to broker. The early “talks” reported in September were not attended by Taliban, but were rather preliminary talks between the Afghan government and other people with no recent Taliban ties.
The move may come as something of a surprise in Pakistan, where top state department official Richard Boucher has made regular visits to warn the Pakistani government against peace talks of its own. According to Secretary Boucher, only “harsh military means” can solve the problem of violence in the restive border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Since these talks would not only involve similar Pakistan-based groups but in many cases the exact same people who would be involved in the impending US-Afghanistan talks, the appearance of a double standard may further exacerbate tensions with the Pakistani government.
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