Secret talks with Taliban not so secretly end

It may not come as much of a surprise to many of you that the United States has been involved in some limited, below the radar talks with the Taliban as America continues its very public debate over our future in Afghanistan. It should be equally unsurprising that the Taliban would need to keep any such talks strictly under the covers to avoid problems at home. And if you’re the Obama administration, I suppose you feel the need to keep Karzai’s government in the loop as long as they keep it top secret, right? What could possibly go wrong?

Secret exploratory peace talks between the United States and the Taliban leadership have broken down after details of the negotiations were leaked, Western diplomats have told The Daily Telegraph.

The breakdown in the talks at such an early stage has led to recriminations and claims that the details of the meetings and the identity of the Taliban’s chief negotiator were deliberately leaked by ‘paranoid’ Afghan government figures…

Sources in Kabul confirmed the talks appeared to have been “blown out of the water” by the publicity.

After years of the Taliban rejecting Hamid Karzai’s overtures, news of contact with a senior aide to Mullah Omar had kindled cautious hope in Kabul…

American officials had understood the need for complete confidentiality but decided President Hamid Karzai’s government had to be kept informed of developments.

Perhaps the biggest sticking point from the very beginning is that the Taliban’s negotiator likely never had any real authority to agree to anything or strike any sort of deal. (And at this point he has disappeared so completely that he may as well be dead.) The diverse, internally conflicted structure of the Taliban – particularly in its current state of exile – isn’t exactly a cohesive governmental structure. For the United States’ part, it’s not a very promising situation trying to enter into any sort of deal when you don’t have a legitimate bargaining partner on the other side of the table.

Oh, and that little incident with shooting down our helicopter and murdering our SEALs and other servicemen probably didn’t help matters either. This story winds up being a rather unremarkable headline which may as well have been titled, “Nothing new in Afghanistan.”