Afghan Peace Talks Hinge on US Pullout

Militants negotiate with intermediaries, but no likely deals yet
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted May 21, 2009 8:17 AM CDT
Afghan National Army soldiers take cover behind a primary school wall and return fire as Taliban fighters attack them May 16, 2009.    (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
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(Newser) – Peace talks are under way in Afghanistan between militant leaders and intermediaries, but the insurgent groups—which include the Taliban—continue to insist on US withdrawal as a condition for peace, the New York Times reports. The Afghan government is backing the talks and optimistic about American backing, even as the US mounts a larger force in the country and maintains its demand that the Taliban disarm.

"America cannot win this war, and the Taliban cannot win this war," an intermediary told the Times. "I have delivered this message to the Taliban." Nevertheless, the communication indicates there may be a political path toward ending the war. Negotiations include an effort by an Afghan-American businessman to speak with militant bosses, which he says the US State Department backed. But agreements reached in those talks require a US pullout in 18 months, which is unlikely under current administration policies.