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.
After years of deflecting US pressure to rein in the Afghan Taliban, Pakistan has arrested in rapid succession the group's No. 2 Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, two shadow provincial governors, and up to nine Al Qaeda-linked militants.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is visiting Saudi Arabia to seek help convincing the Taliban to join peace talks. Riyadh would lend credibility to the effort, but is wary of getting involved.
The US troop surge comes with a new program to pay Taliban-allied villages to switch sides in order to weaken the Taliban's bargaining power in any high-level talks.