President Obama is in Great Britain this week for his first state visit, but even though the war in Afghanistan is one of the top items on the agenda, Britain's intelligence agency reportedly doesn't hold out much hope for a speedy conclusion. American and British officials quietly have been trying to make a deal with the Taliban for months, reports the UK's Sun newspaper, but MI6 has cautioned both its own boss, Prime Minister David Cameron, and its American allies, that nothing's going to happen:
The PM ordered MI6 to start talks with the fanatics weeks after coming to power a year ago, The Sun can reveal. He and the US President believe a horse trade with their hated enemy is the only way to end the ten-year war. But so far, all efforts to bring Taliban chief Mullah Omar and his senior lieutenants to the table have failed - because the Taliban DON'T want to talk ...And as for the US and UK's other joint war? The Sun doesn't even mention the possible disagreements between Obama and Cameron in the war on Libya, which the White House has said will continue until strongman Moammar Qaddafi is out of power. Originally, there were British and French voices that said the UN mandate for action against Qaddafi authorized the world to kill or depose him, even as Washington said he wasn't a valid target, that only regime change from within would be legitimate. With the Libya situation continuing to stretch on, it'll be interesting to see what -- if any -- change comes out of Obama and Cameron's meetings on the subject.
Mr Cameron will hold urgent talks with the President on the faltering Afghan exit strategy when they meet at No 10 on Wednesday. A senior Whitehall official said last night: "MI6 are trying very hard but they are not getting a good response. "It is very tough. They move one step forward and then two steps back. It's the same with the other countries that are trying." The official added: "There is a growing consensus that the PM will have to lower our demands significantly before we get anywhere with the Taliban."
A senior US source said: "We are creating the military conditions for talks to happen but we can't find anyone senior enough to talk to."
One thing that hasn't changed is the quiet, continued presence of American air power: The Pentagon confirmed Friday that American Predators are still flying surveillance and attack missions; and Navy and Air Force jets are still attacking Libyan air defenses, as needed.
The US also has continued to distribute "non-lethal aid" to the Libyan rebel alliance -- here was the official rundown from the Pentagon:
"To date, we have delivered 10,000 cases of Halal ready-to-eat meals (120,000 meals) and we are currently in the coordination and consolidation process regarding additional non-lethal aid, to include items such as medical supplies, tents, uniforms, personnel equipment, sandbags, HESCOs (to construct barriers), and protective vests, which will be delivered in the coming weeks. The non-lethal aid supplies are being consolidated from sources all over the U.S. and abroad."