Yesterday there were some significant developments in the negotiations. In exchange for the agreement to release some prisoners from Guantanamo, the Taliban agreed to open an office in Qatar.
The US has agreed in principle to release high-ranking Taliban officials from Guantánamo Bay in return for the Afghan insurgents' agreement to open a political office for peace negotiations in Qatar, the Guardian has learned...
The releases would be to reciprocate for Tuesday's announcement from the Taliban that they are prepared to open a political office in Qatar to conduct peace negotiations "with the international community" – the most significant political breakthrough in ten years of the Afghan conflict...
Nasr, now a professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, said the Taliban announcement on the opening of an office in Qatar was a dramatic breakthrough.
"If it had not happened then the idea of reconciliation would have been completely finished. The Qatar office is akin to the Taliban forming a Sinn Féin, a political wing to conduct negotiations," Nasr said, but added: "The next phase will need concessions on both sides. This doesn't mean we are now on autopilot to peace."
Michael Semple, a former EU envoy in Afghanistan who has maintained contact with senior Taliban figures, agreed that the deal represented a critical moment.
"This is at last a real process," Semple, now at Harvard University, said. "There is a long list of things we don't have and there has been no progress on substantive issues. But now there is a certain amount of momentum. Every discussion over the past couple of years has been heavy on western enthusiasm with nothing substantial from the other side."...
Western diplomats hope the opening of an office in Qatar will also lessen Pakistan's control of the Taliban. Pakistan plays host to most of the Taliban leadership, which it sees as an important bargaining counter in negotiations over the future of the region.
It is critically important that we keep an eye on this story. Not just because President Obama is taking HUGE risks to finally end this indefinite war. But also because you can bet that the right wing is on this story. As an example, the conservative blog PowerLine published a story about this same article titled Obama's Surrender of Afghanistan Continues Apace.
As we watch this story unfold, we need to know the long game our President is dealing with in this situation and be ready to defend the steps he's taking to get there.
UPDATE: Once again, Matt Osborne is on this story as well.