Those US officials who support such reconciliation argue that if an accommodation can be made that ends violence and prevents Taliban control of much of the country, it could create the conditions for stamping out corruption and improving governance that are at the heart of the current international effort.
They point to the experience in Iraq, where the outreach – with cash – to Sunni insurgents was a crucial step to ending the civil war that erupted there in 2006. Known as the Sons of Iraq, they worked with the US to rout Al Qaeda.
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.