Just how fast are those prospective Karzai-Taliban peace talks advancing? According to this Voice of America report, a "mini-jirga" meeting of Afghan and Pakistan officials in Islamabad has put together committees in both Afghanistan and Pakistan to send feelers out to the Taliban:
Afghanistan’s former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah said those committees will work independently from any other peace talks being pursued by the two governments.
"We agreed that contacts should be established with the opposition," he said. "Apart from whatever else is happening in that regard, joint contacts will be established through jirga-gai by using other influential figures through the opposition groups in both countries."
Representatives of the Islamabad jirga said the term "opposition groups" refers to all those involved in the armed conflict in both countries.
For the Pakistanis to be on board with these peace talks is a really encouraging sign for a variety of reasons. Most pragmatically, since much of the Taliban leadership is believed to operate around the Pakistani city of Quetta, Pakistanis are the obvious intermediaries here.
But more substantially, the presence of both Afghan and Pakistani Taliban in the Pakistani tribal areas are a metastacizing cancer. Pakistan has suffered from something like 60 suicide bombings this year alone — including the devastation of the Islamabad Marriott, which killed 55 in the heart of the Pakistani capitol. For the Pakistanis to be part of a negotiated effort to the Taliban demonstrates that they’re taking the problem seriously. Maybe an Obama administration won’t necessarily need to conduct unilateral military strikes.
Crossposted to The Streak.