New York Times: Taliban Hint at Interest in Negotiated Settlement
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban have begun to send signals that they are interested in a negotiated settlement, potentially offering an opening for the West and the Afghan government, several Western officials said.
While there have been some meetings between the Afghan government, NATO officials and some Taliban figures — and even with someone who turned out to be a Taliban imposter — the Taliban have always insisted that NATO troops would have to leave Afghanistan before any meaningful negotiations could take place. Now two recent statements suggest instead that they would be willing to engage in talks even with foreigners in the country. The Taliban are also speaking in less inflammatory terms.
The Taliban shift comes even as Afghan public opinion has grown increasingly skeptical about the viability of peace talks in recent weeks, Western officials said. Under the best of circumstances, it will likely take years for a deal to be reached, but many Afghans and Westerners believe that the parties need to start talks before the United States begins to draw down substantial numbers of troops.