But Afghanistan is not Iraq, and some Afghan leaders argue that the ideologically driven Taliban – who believe the country should be run by their stark interpretation of the Koran alone – are simply buying time, and that Pakistan still supports Taliban-led Pashtun hegemony inside the country.
“The Taliban are very clear in their ideology and their ultimate intentions. What they want is to make Afghanistan a place where it’s impossible for people like me to live,” says Waliullah Rahmani, a minority Hazara, who runs the Kabul Center for Strategic Studies. “Nothing is going to come of these talks except maybe encouraging the Taliban.”
The Taliban’s base of support lies in the Pasthun community, Afghanistan's largest ethnic group, which includes Mr. Karzai.
Tajik and Uzbeks worry that in the short term, Taliban reconciliation could mean taking government jobs away from minorities; in the long term, it could lead to a Taliban takeover.
Tajik and Uzbek military commanders were among some of the most ferocious in the 1980s war to oust the Soviets, only to see the unity of the mujahideen – a catch-all for various ethnically and religiously based militias – disintegrate after the Soviets left in 1989.
What ensued was a civil war over the spoils, with warlords seeking to carve out their own fiefdoms to control smuggling and extortion opportunities.
That environment eroded what little trust and respect average Afghans had for the nominal government in Kabul, and helped fuel the rise of the Taliban, who were armed and funded by a Pakistan eager for a pliant government in Kabul. But the Taliban government passed over ethnic minorities for top posts, shut in the country's women, and persecuted religious minorities such as Shiites. These groups now form the backbone of opposition to any Taliban return.