Several sources have confirmed over the past week that informal peace talks have begun between Taliban leaders and Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government. NATO has been facilitating the meetings by providing Taliban leaders with safe passage to Kabul to meet with high-level members of the Karzai government. The Taliban continues to reject negotiation in its public statements, but Afghan and Arab observers dismiss this position as propaganda, arguing that “leading segments of the insurgency” are in fact considering if a settlement is possible (Karen DeYoung and Craig Whitlock, “NATO forces facilitating Afghan-Taliban talks,” Washington Post, 14 October 2010).
Due to the informal nature of the discussions, the members of the recently created Afghan Peace Council are still waiting for a clear indication of what their role will be in negotiations.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told a press conference last Thursday that negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban must be led by Afghans, although the U.S. will continue to follow the discussions and offer advice (Deb Reichmann, “Afghan peace council chief: Taliban ready to talk,” Associated Press, 13 October 2010).