Time to Talk to the Taliban?

The U.S.-led international community has been engaged in reintegration, or bringing mid- to low-level members of the Taliban and the insurgency into Afghan society as long as they renounce violence and al-Qaeda, pledge adherence to the national constitution and agree to political participation.

This effort is targeted towards Afghans who are cooperating with the Taliban out of fear, have a grudge against the Afghan government or the international forces backing the Karzai regime, or the so-called "paycheck Taliban," those who fight for money.

The international community has been less publicly involved in reconciliation, which involves the Afghan government making peace with senior leaders of the Taliban and other insurgent groups who have been affiliated with al-Qaeda. Said Tayeb Jawad, Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S., said recently he believes this group only consists of 5 to 10 percent of all Afghan insurgents.

Lamb, who worked in Iraq on reintegration and reconciliation of insurgents under U.S. General James Mattis, said the two issues are "inextricably linked."

"Reintegration is not a stand alone activity. It's one, in my view, that is inextricably tied to reconciliation. For one without the other fails and both of which are an integral part of the wider counterinsurgency campaigns," Lamb said at a Marine Corps University event in April.

When asked if there was more emphasis being placed on reconciliation and reintegration more recently than before, Lamb said he believes both the U.S.and its Afghan allies are ready to negotiate.

"In my view, yes the time is about right. We started the dialogue, saw what the opportunities were. I believe those opportunities are real, very much then fits in with what President Karzai and many Afghans have been saying for some time, which is, 'We want to do this.' My view is we now have a convergence of interest," Lamb said.

Jawad also sees a change in the U.S. stance.

"There initially was a lot of reintegration talk by our international partner, more reconciliation talk by our government, but now they came together somehow and let's do both of them parallel," Jawad said recently.

Whatever is discussed at the jirga, reintegration or reconciliation, the U.S. and coalition members are funding it.

Upwards of $100 million in Commander Emergency Response Program (CERP) funds from the FY2010 National Defense Authorization Act will go to supporting Afghan reintegration, said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen at the March 25 House appropriations hearing. ISAF coalition members have also established the international Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund in support of that aim.

State Department Facebook Page Broaches Talking to Taliban

On May 5, the U.S. Kabul Embassy Facebook page posted the questions: "What is your opinion about talking to the Taliban?" and "Does talking to the Taliban or other extremist groups lead to peace?"

One Afghan Facebook member responded: "It is believed that they are going for the peace deal to let foreign forces leave Afghanistan, and then get some positions in government, then they can start fight again and collapse the government after forces leave. It is a plan made by Pakistan. Honesty of Taliban/Pakistan is doubted."

Another Afghan wrote: "It [is] worth trying. I believe Afghans are fed [up] of War and would like to have peace and stability in the country. So, if it even seems impossible but we have to try it."

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