New message from Mullah Omar: We're ready to talk

He boasts that the Taliban grows more familiar with U.S. military tactics “with the passage of each day,” and claims that his forces are “gaining access to hardware which is instrumental in causing greater losses to the enemy” (.PDF) — probably a reference to the downing of the Navy SEAL’s Chinook earlier this month.

But despite Omar’s flashes of rhetorical belligerence, his message is notable for how it seeds the bed for negotiations that could finally end the war in Afghanistan.

Most significantly, Omar confirms that his lieutenants have already started negotiating with the United States. He refers to “contacts which have been made with some parties for the release of prisoners,” a stark contrast with the Taliban’s consistent and frequent denials that secretive talks with their adversaries are under way. Omar downplays the prisoner discussions as short of a “comprehensive negotiation,” but also signals that the Taliban of 2011, if returned to power, won’t be the old Taliban of the 1990s that “monopolize[d]” political power. Conspicuously, Omar doesn’t claim that the U.S. has to stop fighting before additional negotiations can proceed.

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