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Who's afraid of talking to the Taliban? Many Afghans

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“People will be pushed to go back to open warfare if he brings these people into the government,” she says, the gold bangles on her arm jangling. “Our people are dying because of them, your people are dying because of them, and meanwhile he’s building his relationship with the Taliban. And who supports the Taliban? Iran and the ISI [Pakistan military intelligence].”

Can Iraq model work here?

Notwithstanding such concerns, the United States in recent months has given a tentative blessing to Karzai's outreach efforts, though some American officials still express skepticism that the Taliban will actually deliver in negotiations. CIA chief Leon Panetta told ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday, “We have seen no evidence that they are truly interested in reconciliation where they would surrender their arms [and] where they would denounce Al Qaeda.”

Yet Mohammad Akram, the director of the government’s Taliban reconciliation program, says he reckons only 15 percent or so of Taliban fighters are ideological die-hards influenced by Al Qaeda and committed to victory at any cost. He says his job is to convince the remainder that they won’t be punished if they lay down their weapons, and that they’ll have an economic future here.

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