Zahidullah Mujahid, an official Taleban spokesman, has denied reports of peace negotiations, but Saudi officials say a meeting between representatives of the Afghan Taleban and the Afghan government did take place recently in Saudi Arabia.
Although no actual negotiations seems to have occurred, talks about talks are enough to offer some hope for a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan and provoke alarm in some quarters.
Although many are convinced that the Taleban are not the kind of people who would sell out al-Qaeda in exchange for political power, there is a growing fear among some hardline supporters that a peace deal could lead eventually to al-Qaeda losing its foothold in the region.
Sunni tribesmen, Iraqi nationalists, ex-Baathists and others—backed by US and Iraqi government money and troops—drove al-Qaeda out of Iraq in a campaign known in some circles as the Awakening. However, al-Qaeda continues to have a number of bases in Pakistan’s tribal territories along its border with Afghanistan.
If Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his NATO allies chose to use such a strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, any deal between his government and the Afghan Taleban could potentially be bad news for al-Qaeda.
But good news for the rest of us.