Nothing is certain on this front yet, but the U.S. is reportedly considering opening up some channels of communication to the Taliban in Afghanistan, and between the Taliban and the Afghan government, in the interest of long-term peace goals. —KA
The New York Times:
Even as top American officials cautioned that they are not yet ready to formally join the nascent peace effort with their Taliban foes of the past nine years, they acknowledged that the reconciliation effort is a key part of the American-led war in Afghanistan.
“Whenever opportunities arise that are worth exploring, we ought to take advantage of that,” said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, appearing before reporters with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a NATO conference here.
Mr. Gates said he did not know whether “this leads into something concrete,” but he added, “We need to be open to opportunities that arise.”
... The comments from President Obama’s two highest national security officials—which came during a press conference following a meeting of NATO foreign and defense ministers — came as the leader of Afghanistan’s new peace council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, confirmed in Kabul on Thursday that contacts with members of the Taliban had been made through mediators and that the international support for direct talks added new momentum to the effort.
On Wednesday, NATO and American officials confirmed that the United States and NATO have been doing much more to try to encourage a peaceful settlement than officials had previously disclosed, including helping former fighters and insurgents to travel to peace talks.
NATO’s secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said Thursday that the approach made sense. “This political reconciliation process is Afghan-led,” Mr. Rasmussen told a news conference. “But our position is that if we can facilitate this process through practical assistance, then why not? If we get a request and we can be of practical assistance, we are prepared to do that.”
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton hold a joint press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday.