The Taliban’s public declaration that they will hold talks with the US after eleven years of war is a major break through for the political process. It is also vital for Afghanistan’s internal stability and the relative peace that America and Nato will need if they are to leave the country in good order and without too much bloodshed in 2014. But all the major players have a great deal to do before the pieces can be put together.
The clandestine talks brokered by Germany, fostered by Qatar, and starting with direct meetings between US officials and Taliban representatives, will hopefully conclude with a reconciliation with the Afghan government. The Taliban’s insistence that they will only talk with the Americans will probably be watered down, while president Hamid Karzai’s contradictory statements mean that he is feeling insecure but not averse to the talks. They will go ahead because there is no other alternative to ending the war.