Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, announced on Saturday that the US has begun peace talks with the Taliban to try to reach a settlement to the decade-long war in Afghanistan.
The revelations come just a few days after the US shifted its position on the Taliban, suggesting that the group can be treated separately from al-Qaeda by convincing the UN Security Council to split up its sanctions list imposing asset freezes and travel restrictions.
They also come just a month before the July deadline for Barack Obama, the US president, to deliver his strategy for Afghanistan – either to withdraw more troops or to take the Pentagon's advice and continue with the 'surge' policy.
So, under what conditions are these talks being held? Will they lead to a political settlement in war-torn Afghanistan?
Inside Story, with presenter Laura Kyle, discusses with Haseeb Humayoon, a risk assessment consultant in Kabul, and Thomas Ruttig, the co-director of political think tank Afghanistan Analysts Network.
This episode of Inside Story aired from June 19, 2011.