Quiet crawl to peace on the Afghan shuttle

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  1. From The Sunday Times
    March 15, 2009
    Quiet crawl to peace on the Afghan shuttle
    Christina Lamb in Kabul reveals the diplomatic traffic that could bring the war to an end

    More soldiers are being sent to Afghanistan but negotiations may prove to be the eventual solution
    Christina Lamb, Kabul
    ON the dusty airfields of Kandahar and Camp Bastion in southern Afghanistan, frantic construction work is under way to accommodate 17,000 extra US troops who are due to fly in and try to stem the relentless tide of Taliban.

    But it is far away, in the diverse settings of a council flat in Greenford, west London, and the marble palaces of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, that hope is increasingly focused on ending the war.

    These unlikely locations are the bases for an Algerian former militant and a Saudi prince who are mediators in western-backed negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Once a taboo subject in Washington and Whitehall, “talks with the Taliban” are suddenly being presented by western leaders as the only way out of a war they concede they are not winning.

    Contacts, rather than formal talks, have been under way for 2½ years with little progress. But last week the process was given unexpected impetus when President Barack Obama said the United States must open the door to a “reconciliation process in which the American military would reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban, much as it did with Sunni militias in Iraq”.
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