Sen. John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Friday there is a "very active" effort under way to reach a negotiated political settlement with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Kerry (D-Mass.) acknowledged "efforts" have begun after his visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan this week to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other officials.
U.S. officials have acknowledged that some sort of political settlement must be reached with the Taliban — a loosely affiliated group of Islamic insurgents that control large swaths of territory in Afghanistan — in order to bring an end to the almost nine-year-long U.S. war there.
The beginning of settlement negotiations represents a significant development in terms of Western involvement there.
The announcement also comes at a time when a growing number of U.S. politicians and the public are becoming war weary.
Kerry was asked if negotiations are underway between either between the Afghan government or NATO and a specific portion of the Taliban.
Allied forces in Afghanistan have fought Taliban insurgents since 2001, when the war began. The group, which once governed the mountainous Central Asian nation, was booted from power, but has since regained control of several key areas of the country.
Kerry said any "appropriate" settlement would have to include "a renunciation of al Qaeda," a "reduction of violence," a "recognition of the constitutional rights of both Pakistan and Afghanistan and greater efforts to reduce sanctuaries for insurgency."
Petraeus, commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he thought "there is a prospect for reconciliation with some of the groups," specifically citing HIG (Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin) insurgents who have squabbled with the Taliban and have made overtures to the Afghan government to agree to the conditions laid out.
"It doesn't mean that Mullah
Omar is about to stroll down main street in Kabul any time soon and
raise his hand and swear an oath on the constitution of Afghanistan," Petraeus said, citing the Taliban leader.
"But every possibility, I think, that there can be low- and mid-level reintegration, and indeed, some fracturing of the senior leadership that could be really defined as reconciliation."