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Time to Negotiate in Afghanistan

How to Talk to the Taliban

Partners for peace? Afghan Taliban joining a reintegration program, January 2012.  MOHAMMAD SHOIB / REUTERS

Peace talks, if not peace itself, may be close at hand in Afghanistan. Over the past few months, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Afghan Taliban have made unexpected strides toward talks. In early May, members of the Taliban and the Afghan government even met in Qatar and expressed real interest in starting official negotiations—a heartening step.

Since 2001, opportunities for peace talks have come and gone. Sometimes, the process has stalled for political reasons, such as the United States’ reticence to engage with the Taliban. Other times, discussions have broken down due to miscommunications or a lack of political consensus. It was not until 2010 that the United States fully embraced peace talks as the best way to end the violence in Afghanistan, and even then, progress was slow and halting.

But this time may be different. Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan’s new president, has placed peace talks at the center of his

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