Peaceful Prospects Brighten in Afghanistan
US-Taliban talks: The US wants them as part of its 2014 exit strategy from Afghanistan, while Hamid Karzai is running hot and cold on the idea. Whether they happen or not is contingent on the Afghan president's wishes. The United States, under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is insistent the warring factions support recently won political and human rights. One of the major stumbling blocks is the political power Pakistan holds in the neighbor's fledgling democracy. Meantime, the US is bit by bit offering more recognition of the Afghan Taliban, this week, supporting the opening of a Taliban office in neutral Qatar as a place where Afghan factions could prepare for reconciliation talks with the Karzai government. But the first step would be talks between the Taliban and the United States, which won't happen without the Afghan president's blessing. Karzi, who vetoed a US-Taliban agreement in December, one which he had approved earlier, is the key to any progress. US envoy Marc Grossman is flying to Kabul for talks next week to get Karzai's green light for a resumption of US-Taliban talks. Recent pictures of US Marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban soldiers could delay or prevent a the talks indefinitely says a Karzai representative. Knowing the consequences, Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta immediately condemned the Marines' act. Losses in the war, plus the death of Osama bin Laden, seem to have brought the Taliban to a position where it's ready to consider a peaceful reconciliation. The US insists there be a renunciation of Al Qaeda and acceptance of the Afghan Constitution.