KABUL, Afghanistan — The war in Afghanistan has reached a stalemate and the best time to jump-start a political settlement with the Taliban is now, according to a report released yesterday by a US think tank.
The report, issued by the Century Foundation, said the United States and Afghanistan’s neighbors, especially Pakistan, must play key roles in any negotiations. Demands that the Taliban sever ties with Al Qaeda or that foreign troops exit the nation, for example, should be considered goals, not preconditions of talks, the 126-page report said. The group also proposed that a neutral party, perhaps the United Nations, be named to facilitate the process.
The report was released as President Hamid Karzai, for the second day in a row, called on the Taliban to lay down their weapons. At a high school in Kabul, Karzai pleaded with the Taliban to stop burning schools and reconcile with the government.
“Once again I’m calling to the Taliban: Make friendship with education and come and make peace,’’ Karzai said. “Let the Afghan children stand on their feet and then the foreigners will voluntarily leave. They will not come back and we won’t need them. . . . If you’re going to burn the schools, it means you are the friend of the foreigners.’’
Karzai has had informal contacts with Taliban figures, but no formal peace talks are underway. Publicly, the Taliban say they won’t negotiate as long as foreign forces are in Afghanistan. The Afghan government and the United States have said they will reconcile only with members of the Taliban who renounce violence, cut ties with Al Qaeda, and embrace the Afghan constitution.
The study was written by a task force set up by the Century Foundation, a nonprofit public policy research institution. The task force, led by Lakhdar Brahimi, former United Nations special representative for Afghanistan, and Thomas Pickering, a former ambassador and US undersecretary of state for political affairs, met with senior policy makers and analysts in a dozen countries.