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by Joseph Collins
It's official. Everyone from the Pentagon to Saudi Arabia thinks that reconciliation between the Taliban and the Karzai government is a good idea and a step toward settling the conflict in Afghanistan. A few deluded analysts even see dealing with the Taliban as the Afghan equivalent of the Sunni Awakening in Iraq. One wonders whether war weariness, success with reconciliation in Iraq, and a lack of familiarity with the Afghan context may not be pushing us toward a tactical error or worse, an endless round of talking with an illegitimate adversary that believes it has the upper hand.
Reconciliation in Afghanistan is fraught with complications. For one, there is no Taliban per se. In the south we have Mullah Omar's "old" Taliban, but in the East, the toughest fighters come from the Haqqani network and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezbi Islami, both of which work closely with Al Qaeda. Complicating the issue even more, there is now a multi-branch Pakistani Taliban, some of whom operate in both countries. Ironically, the Afghan Taliban and its friends seem to be well tolerated by Pakistani authorities who are now in conflict with their own Taliban.