Now this can only be a step in the right direction.
CNN is reporting (via Captain Ed) that the Taliban is pursuing negotiations with the new Karzai government in Afghanistan, with a mind toward forging a peace deal. According to CNN, the Sunni Islamist movement has had quite enough of al Qaeda’s all-encompassing war against non-Muslims (which seems lately to resemble more and more a war against everyone except al Qaeda fighters) and wishes to become a legitimate political movement within Afghanistan, without al Qaeda’s “help” bringing them nothing but grief.
One sign that they may be serious is the fact that Saudi Arabia is hosting the talks between government officials and Taliban leaders. Captain Ed points out that the Saudis have their own reasons to see the Taliban sever their ties with al Qaeda and join forces with Karzai; al Qaeda has been gunning for the Saudi royal family as well for years, and lately the Taliban have been accepting arms support from Iran, which has got to make anyone worried about Iran’s sphere of influence fidgety. It is unlikely that the Saudis would be wasting their time if they thought there was a chance that the Taliban were setting them up with sham negotiations meant only to buy time for al Qaeda to regroup.
As for our own interests, NATO troops would have a whole lot less of a rough time fighting the remaining shreds of al Qaeda than they would the wider Taliban movement. The Taliban would also feel safe in Afghanistan for a change, meaning fewer hostile fighters scurrying across the border into Pakistan, where NATO rockets and aerial drones have improved their accuracy in eliminating them but still annoy the not-yet-stable Pakistani government with their intrusiveness. Fewer incursions into Pakistan’s territory and airspace can only help make things more stable in that country.
Obstacles remain. The Taliban have declared their separation from al Qaeda, but a formal renunciation of violence in general is necessary, as is adherence to the democratic principles enshrined in the country’s new constitution, before Hamid Karzai fully welcomes them into the new Afghanistan’s political process. However, Karzai is negotiating from a position of strength (the Taliban came to him, after all), and he may even be in a position to compel them to give up their leaders in exchange for safe haven. Wouldn’t it be a measure of poetic justice if the Taliban ultimately brought about the downfall of the leaders of the terrorist group that brought the wrath of the U.S. and NATO on the heads of the Taliban-led Afghan government in 2001 in the first place?