By Mick Krever, CNN
The Taliban has long been known as an extremist group, but could it become a player in workaday politics?
The group said it hoped to do just that when it opened a political office in the capital of Qatar, Doha. So why come in from the cold?
“Their decision making is kind of mysterious,” Marc Grossman, former U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan,” told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.
But he did have two leading theories.
One, the Taliban realizes that the international community is, in Grossman’s words, “committed” to Afghanistan post-2014, when Western troops are scheduled to pull out of the country.
“I think they look at their world and they say, ‘Well, we could wait and do nothing, but maybe it’s time to get back in this.’”
Second, Grossman hypothesized, the Pakistanis may have put pressure on the Taliban to enter into talks.
“More and more Pakistanis,” Grossman said, “understand that chaos in Afghanistan is bad for them, and I think they sent a message to the Taliban saying, ‘now’s the time.’”
That’s not to say that talks will be smooth sailing. After all, negotiations would involve parties that have been trying to kill each other for more than a decade – and often much longer.
Just a day after the Taliban opened their office in Doha, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he was pulling out of the talks. At issue was the name that the Taliban gave their new office – a name that seemed to suggest that there may be more than one true Afghanistan.
“There was a deal that had been done – they weren’t supposed to call this office “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” and when they did, people called them on it,” Grossman said. “The Taliban realized they’d overstepped their bounds.”
The road to negotiations will be long and bumpy, Grossman told Amanpour, but we’re in the very early days.
“The most important thing about this office,” he said, “is to try to get Afghans talking to other Afghans about the future of Afghanistan.”