The U.S. was holding secret negotiations with the Taliban--until Afghanistan's president told the world they were happening
Reports that the Afghan government deliberately undermined U.S. negotiations with the Taliban suggest that the path to peace in Afghanistan requires navigating between the Scylla of a hostile enemy and the Charybdis of truculent allies.
According to the Associated Press, the United States held a series of secret peace talks with the Taliban in 2010 and 2011. The negotiations were apparently making progress before they were undermined by an act of deliberate sabotage. Officials close to Hamid Karzai publicly leaked the talks for fear that the Afghan president would be sidelined. The discussions then collapsed and the Taliban negotiator fled into hiding--where he hasn't been heard from for months.
Ahmed Rashid, writing at the New York Review of Books, is more optimistic. The claim that:
the talks have stalled is completely wrong according to my well-informed sources, who insist that they are continuing despite leaks to the press, as well as threats to the security of the participants and other problems.
Whatever the precise status of the current discussions, the episode reveals that negotiating peace is not simply a matter of bargaining with the enemy: keeping friends on board can be an even greater challenge. Wartime alliances resemble a group of prisoners bound together in a chain gang. If one prisoner marches toward the horizon, another may dig his heels in and bring the whole expedition to a shuddering halt.