President Obama said the Afghanistan war drawdown would be done from a position of strength, citing success in killing Al Qaeda leaders. But a similar campaign to weaken the Taliban has not been equally successful.
Maintaining official ties with Al Qaeda provides the Taliban with important credibility among international jihadist groups, as well as access to military training and Arab funding.
Even before Osama bin Laden's killing, the Taliban were softening their image while the US, Pakistan, and Afghanistan set the stage for talks. Now the US must decide if it's worth years of further military and diplomatic effort to hammer out an agreement.