U.S. Faces Newly Muscular Taliban in Peace-Talk Efforts by Craig Nelson, Saeed Shah and Sami Yousafzai – Wall Street Journal
As it pushes to jump-start an Afghan peace process, the U.S. faces a Taliban stronger than any time since an American-led military coalition deposed them 17 years ago, U.S. and Afghan officials, current and former militants and experts say.
The movement’s battlefield successes and territorial gains give the group more sway in talks, in which it seeks the withdrawal of U.S.-led foreign forces from Afghanistan and to forge an ultraconservative Islamic government.
Prospects for serious dialogue rose last week when the Taliban appointed five senior members to join their political office in Qatar following two rounds of U.S.-Taliban discussions in recent months. Among the appointments are a top former military commander, Mohammed Fazl, who is expected to prove popular among the Taliban rank-and-file and boost the office’s negotiating clout, people familiar with the rationale for the step say…