Speaking today to members of the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division, President Obama said there are “signs” that the Taliban might be interested in a political settlement. He said the settlement was “going to be critical in consolidating that country.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also confirmed the talks, terming them “unpleasant” and adding that they were “very preliminary” at this point. The US has repeatedly sought talks with the Taliban, but has also issued a number of conditions which led them to reject such talks.
Indeed, while President Hamid Karzai and a number of US officials have confirmed the talks, the Taliban itself has not done so. Several past attempts at talks turned into fiascos, with revelations that NATO was talking either to people who were former Taliban or, in one particularly shameful case, a con artist scamming them out of large sums of money.
It is interesting to note, however, that US officials have repeatedly termed the talks “preliminary,” saying that the talks haven’t made any progress yet. It seems that officials are either trying to downplay the talks because of the past failures or because they think a settlement will be unpopular.