The Taliban is ready to accept a peace deal that would allow a US military presence in Afghanistan until 2024, according to a group of academics who interviewed senior Taliban figures. The professors say that leading Taliban members have concluded that the "war is not winnable," and they're willing to make concessions in return for a share of political power, reports the Guardian. The Taliban leaders despise the "weak and corrupt" Karzai government, but have also soured on al-Qaeda, according to the academics.
The academics say the pragmatic Taliban figures they spoke to could accept a US presence at five bases, as long as the American forces did not attack Afghanistan's neighbors Iran and Pakistan. The Taliban, which has long said that it will not talk peace until foreign troops leave, denies the report. It is "a lie and is baseless," a spokesman tells Reuters. "We have never wanted the Americans to stay in Afghanistan, and this has always been our position." In 2010, a "top Taliban figure" the British brought to Kabul for meetings with Karzai turned out to be a Pakistani shopkeeper.