The uncompleted challenge of Richard Holbrooke's diplomatic career was a peace deal in Afghanistan. While being prepared for the surgery during which he died, he told his family members, "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan."
The longer NATO stays in Afghanistan, the more we play into al Qaeda's hands, and the more likely that the part-time Taliban will become full-time global partisans who hit hard where we live without bungling their attacks.
The U.S. should turn the current shadow play about talks with the Taliban into serious negotiations. Older Taliban leaders might well drop support for Bin Laden if we were no longer there to unite them in defense of their homeland.
What's generally missing from the frequent assertion, "The Taliban will not negotiate if they think they're winning" is any specific information about the Taliban that would allow us to draw this conclusion.
They may not be useful for making posters for a demonstration. But for lobbying Congressional staff or making other presentations to people not already on our side, the arguments of the Afghanistan Study Group are likely to be useful.
This Saturday, I'll be stepping off a plane in Dubai along with several dozen other Americans, on the way to Kabul for a mission to monitor elections for the Wolesi Jirga, Afghanistan's lower house of Parliament.
Afghans courageous enough to go out and vote on September 18 certainly have my respect, but for U.S. officials and policymakers, there are multiple delegitimizing issues that should be cause for concern.