It’s been such a whirlwind I didn’t time to highlight some parts of our story marking the start of peace talks, so here goes:

This story is abt the Taliban and how they got from largely defeated in 2001 to sitting in an ornate ballroom w Pompeo yesterday…
In the months leading up to talks beginning yesterday, many Afghans felt the terms of the US Taliban deal strengthened the Taliban’s hand before the two sides even reached the negotiating table.
But when you talk to long time Afghan officials and former US officials, they point to years of missteps that brought us to this point: where a repressive militant group is now militarily stronger than ever before and entering sensitive peace talks with the upper hand...
A fmr senior US commander said it felt like “everything was possible,” in the years after 2001.

“I’d visit these bases that didn’t have a single strand of concertina [razor] wire around them.”

“It was a period of opportunity,” he said.
.@a_a_jackson said the Taliban have had this ability to “come back from the dead” repeatedly & that, she said had as much to do w the group’s ability to adapt as it did w the failures of the US military, the Afghan government and the international community...
A Taliban commander told us initially US airstrikes decimated his forces, but overtime became the primary fueler of recruitment.

“American airstrikes killed civilians, and American troops brutalized them in other ways, and it was because of this that people began supporting us”
Lots of people who I spoke to pointed to the Taliban’s unity of purpose and faith when describing the group’s ability to weather losses & this commander’s quotes certainly reflected that...
“Our leaders told us the enemies will come, and they will destroy some of us, but they will not destroy all of us,” he said.

“We always knew that we would win either militarily or (the US) would come to us asking for peace.”
The US first came asking for peace in 2011, but it wasn’t until @US4AfghanPeace took over in 2018 that the US got close to a deal. Zal took a completely different approach from his predecessors in many ways, an approach that often frustrated Kabul...
But he defended his means when I spoke to him the evening before talks began.
“We tried (the other way) for God knows how many years,” and this time @US4AfghanPeace said, “there is now an opportunity to reach an end to the war.”
& that is that - I know threads can be tedious, but I’ve been told they are useful for those w/o a WaPo subscription 😅 (tho honestly ppl, subscribe 🙄😊)

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