For years public opinion polls in Afghanistan have shown that Afghan's believe it necessary to negotiate with the Taliban. In fact, the Government of Afghanistan, the Taliban and large UN agencies already cooperate through country-wide humanitarian efforts around Polio.
So, why does the US government resist?
December 2008: An ABC/BBC poll asked Afghans if the government in Kabul should negotiate a settlement with Afghan Taliban in which they are allowed to hold political offices if they agree to stop fighting? 64% said Yes, negotiate with the Taliban. 25 % said No, continue fighting and don't negotiate. When people were also asked who they blame for the violence in the country it was almost evenly split between Taliban 27%, Al Qaeda/Foreign Jihadis 22%, U.S./NATO Forces 21%.
December 2009: An afghan opinion survey finds 65% of Afghans interviewed believed the government in Kabul should negotiate a settlement with the Afghan Taliban in which they are allowed to hold political office if they agree to stop fighting.
In January, during a visit to Islamabad, Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged that the Taliban are a part of the political fabric of Afghanistan and need to play a critical role. For a detailed presentation of the impact of this decision, listen to Zia Mian’s recent conference call briefing.
Michael Semple, writing for the Financial Times in February, reflects on the role he played in facilitating dialogue with the Taliban and warns that the Government of Afghanistan and the international community must commit more than just money. (The article requires a free subscription put is very important)
Finally, today in the Washington Post, Ahmad Rashid argues – from a regional context – why the US needs to talk to the Taliban.