Some senior Taliban officials are ready to accept a long-term U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, a not-yet-released report indicates.
The insurgents are ready to negotiate a cease-fire and separate themselves from al-Qaida, the British newspaper The Guardian reported Monday.
The report, published by the Royal United Services Institute, is based on interviews with four members of the Taliban whose names were not released.
One of those interviewed is described as "closely associated" with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. Another is said to be "a senior former mujahedin commander and lead negotiator for the Taliban," while a third is "an Afghan mediator with extensive experience negotiating with the Taliban."
The report said the insurgents would not negotiate with the Afghan government for several reasons, including its record of corruption and a belief the government cannot run fair elections.
"We are not saying that this is some kind of poll that says three out of four Taliban members are in favor of a cease-fire," said Michael Semple, a co-author of the report. "But there is a part of the movement who see there is no prospect of a military victory and so cease-fire would make sense. This is not the official line, but rather the outer fringe of Taliban thought. It's not mainstream yet."
U.S. military forces could operate out of five primary bases to attack al-Qaida, an interviewee said, as long as the bases were not used to attack other countries or to interfere in Afghan politics.
Taliban leaders "deeply regret" their past association with al-Qaida, the report said, adding there was a suggestion the Taliban could cooperate in hunting down their former allies.