Western nations seem to be quickly warming to the idea of talking peace with the Taliban. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who only last month said talks would be premature, backed the idea at a NATO meeting yesterday, the AP reports. "Whenever opportunities arise that are worth exploring, I think we ought to take advantage of that," he said. A NATO official says the alliance has helped safe passage for Taliban leaders to attend talks.
Talks "will play out over a period of time," Hillary Clinton said at the NATO meeting. "We're not yet ready to make any judgments about whether any of this will bear fruit," she said, adding that while it's unlikely that the Taliban's leaders will agree to reconciliation, "stranger things have happened in the history of war." Afghan President Hamid Karzai says talks so far have been unofficial, while the Taliban denies that it has authorized anybody to negotiate. "We will not come. We don't believe in such a peace session," a spokesman said. "They are just saying these things to show the world that there is some positive movement in Afghanistan because they are ashamed that they're losing on the ground."