As the Bush administration reviews its strategy in Afghanistan, there is an emerging consensus that the way forward should include reaching out to supporters of the Taliban, and possibly even elements of the Taliban itself.
Several U.S. officials confirmed a report today in the Wall Street Journal that the White House is actively considering taking part in talks with tribal leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan who are associated with the Taliban.
Officials said, however, that these talks would be led by either Afghanistan or Pakistan, or both. The United States would play a secondary, supportive role, the officials said.
"Part of the calculus of any way forward will have to include reconciliation with some current antagonists in Afghanistan," one senior military official said.
Earlier this month, Gen. David Petraeus, the former top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq -- who, on Friday takes over as the commander of CENTCOM, which directs U.S. military operations in the Middle East and southwest Asia -- said talking to insurgent groups in Iraq was critical to bringing down the violence there.
"I do think you have to talk to enemies," Petraeus said on Oct. 8 in a speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. "I mean, what we did do in Iraq ultimately was sit down with some of those that were shooting at us." The idea, officials explained, is to negotiate from a position of strength, supporting talks with those willing to renounce violence and hunting down those who don't.