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Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, Steve Coll, has the scoop in the New Yorker: "The Obama administration has entered into direct, secret talks with senior Afghan Taliban leaders. The discussions are continuing; they are of an exploratory nature and do not yet amount to a peace negotiation."

Still, the seeming purpose of these talks is to wind-down the Afghan war:

For the United States, the overarching goal of such negotiations would be to persuade at least some important Taliban leaders to break with Al Qaeda, leave the battlefield, and participate in Afghan electoral politics, without touching off violence by anti-Taliban groups or gutting the rights enjoyed by minorities and women.

Although the Taliban’s record is nothing like Al Qaeda’s, they have aided international terrorism; in 2000, for example, they facilitated the escape of the murderous hijackers of an Indian Airlines passenger plane. As Hillary Clinton indicated, the morality of talking to them at all, given their history of violence and repression, is debated within the Administration, as it is within the Afghan government. But in both countries there is also hope for an honorable path to end the war.

Coll writes that the talks are the late Richard Holbrooke's "final diplomatic achievement" as he and a few others in the Obama administration argued last year "that it was time to try talking to the Taliban again." Others in the Obama administration objected to the talks on moral grounds.

One last thing…
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