The Washington Post reports that serious, high-level talks are now taking place between the government of Afghanistan and Taliban representatives. While it is too early to predict whether anything will come of these talks, the fact that they are occurring seems like good news.
Unfortunately, the Taliban appear to believe, as Dan Ackroyd keeps repeating in The Blues Brothers, that they are on a mission from God, and they are therefore oblivious to the havoc they cause on the way to accomplishing their mission. At the same time, they seem to recognize that the Taliban remains unpopular with most people, which is why they must resort to military means to achieve power rather than contesting elections. It seems doubtful that they have suddenly decided to accept the legitimacy of the democratic process and are ready to take their place as a bona fide political party in a pluralistic political system. What they may have decided, is that they can accomplish more within that structure than by continuing to operate as an illegitimate band of guerrillas that will never be allowed to take power again.
From the US point of view, our interests are supposed to be limited to assuring that Afghanistan does not become a safe haven for terrorists again, as it was when the Taliban held power. Perhaps our build-up of forces was helpful to bringing the parties to the table. At the same time, we seem to have recognized, as have most of the interested parties, that the problems of Afghanistan cannot be solved by military means alone, and that a political solution is necessary. Therefore, talking should always be encouraged.