The Obama administration has entered into direct, secret talks with senior Afghan Taliban leaders, according to New Yorker columnist Steve Coll's report in the Feb. 28 issue. Several sources who have been briefed about the talks informed Coll last week that the talks are so far of an exploratory nature, and ongoing. The purpose of the talks "is to assess which figures in the Taliban's leadership, if any, might be willing to participate in formal Afghan peace negotiations, and under what conditions,” writes Coll. For the United States, the overarching goal of such talks "would be to persuade at least some important Taliban leaders to break with al Qaeda, leave the battlefield, and enter electoral Afghan politics, without touching off violence by anti-Taliban groups or gutting the rights enjoyed by minorities and women."
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