But senior administration officials acknowledged that there have been no meetings with Taliban interlocutors since January. The lack of progress was underscored by an explosion of insurgent attacks in recent weeks and a Taliban statement last week announcing the inception of “the current year’s spring operation” against foreign military “occupiers” and anyone who assists them.
The administration had anticipated significant movement in the discussions by this month’s NATO summit in Chicago, where Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the alliance expect to set a course for the withdrawal of all U.S. and coalition combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
But the political plan, intended to move alongside military progress on a parallel track, now risks falling off the rails. The approaching withdrawal deadline has raised anxiety among many Afghans who fear they will be left with the results of a rushed negotiation that gives the Taliban unwarranted political power, or a civil war like the one that engulfed Afghanistan in the 1990s…
“There’s open talk of civil war . . . between the north and the south, [and] amongst the south itself between the Taliban and other Pashtuns,” said Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani author who has written extensively about al-Qaeda and the Taliban. “There’s going to be a wave of attacks and offenses by the Taliban if there is no peace process,” Rashid said at a recent Washington conference on reconciliation with the insurgents.