FIVE years ago, the Americans were refusing to speak to the Taliban. Now the Taliban are refusing to speak to the Americans. That is a measure of how the balance of power has shifted in Afghanistan.
The western intervention there has failed. As the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) prepares to withdraw from the country in 2014, it is only the scale of the defeat that remains to be determined.
A senior Pakistani official comments sardonically: "I remember when the Americans used to say that the only good Taliban was a dead Taliban. Then they talked about separating the reconcilable from the irreconcilable. Now they say, the Taliban are not our enemy." In fact, Nato and Taliban forces are still enemies on the battlefield. But in a desperate effort to leave behind a stable Afghanistan, the US and its allies are also battling to include the Taliban in the political process. However, the Taliban are in no rush to negotiate and recently broke off talks. With western troops on their way out, there is little pressure on them to compromise now.
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