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Talking with the Taliban
What should Obama do if Afghanistan’s Karzai negotiates with the enemy?

“What’s up with Hamid Karzai?” said Fred Kaplan in Slate. The Afghan president said he would welcome peace talks with Mullah Mohammed Omar, the brutal Taliban leader with a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head who harbored al Qaida and Osama bin Laden. U.S. commanders are open to "reaching out to ‘reconcilable’ Taliban fighters,” but “holding peace talks with Mullah Omar, or any other hard-core Taliban, is senseless” and dangerous.

Karzai’s offer is probably “a mere PR gimmick” designed to shore up domestic support before next year’s elections, said the Pakistan Observer in an editorial. But he’s right that there can be no peace in Afghanistan until the Taliban fighters—who “are part and parcel of the Afghan nation”—are brought “back to the national mainstream.”

Any talks with the Taliban would be a “terrible idea,” said Ann Marlowe in The Wall Street Journal, sending the wrong message to both the fundamentalist “criminals” in the Taliban and the newly hopeful Afghans in the parts of the country where we’re winning. Karzai must be desperate to cover up the inadequacies of his “often incompetent government.”

Dealing with Karzai will be one of the big challenges facing President Obama, said Daniel Markey in the International Herald Tribune. He will have to decide, quickly, if Karzai is “minimally capable” or “an insuperable obstacle” to progress. Obama will either have to back Karzai for reelection or use America's "unmatched" influence in Kabul to “ease him out of the presidential race.”

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