For most Americans and for many here in Washington, the idea that the United States could broker successful talks with the Taliban that lead to the end of the Afghan war is mind-bending. And yet, that is what senior U.S. officials have allowed themselves to entertain as 10 months of secret dialogue reach the point of breakthrough or collapse. It’s a small glimmer of hope where there once was none.
In our exclusive “Secret U.S., Taliban talks reach turning point,” we reveal that the United States is considering the transfer of Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo to the Afghan government. The Taliban will have to correspond with its own confidence-building measures like denouncing international terrorism and entering formal talks with President Karzai’s government.
Judging from initial reactions, a reconciliation process will be no easy sell here at home (not to mention in Afghanistan, where a senior Taliban commander said talks had not even started).
Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss issued a statement today saying: “It sounds as if the administration has decided to negotiate with terrorists, something the United States does not do.” Prisoner transfers, he said, should only be done once hostilities have ceased and that Americans should know who the detainees are and what acts they have committed.
There will undoubtedly be much American soul-searching about dealing with an insurgent group that has not only killed U.S. soldiers but also advocates a strict Islamic form of government.