There seems to be something of an optimism outbreak on after the London conference last week; here's McChrystal, saying he expects that by December, a significant chunk of the Taliban will have gone quiet - notably, he seems to expect a lot of semi-supporters to jack it in quietly. Well, two Friedman units, eh. A significant tribe has apparently agreed to sign up with the Afghan government.
Ahmed Rashid has a must-read on talks during 2009. He argues that the major diplomatic story in this is that the Saudi and Afghan intelligence services have developed their own contacts to the Taliban, bypassing the Pakistani ISI.
al Sahwa discusses the Taliban shadow administration, which has some presence at least in 33 provinces of 34 and is a key element in any guerrilla army. NATO has picked a head of its civilian activities in Afghanistan.
Obviously, if part of the strategy is to bypass the ISI as interlocutors, then it's going to be indispensable to compensate Pakistan on the other side of the table. As said here:
It would be a really fruitful thing for the Obama administration to start involving itself in an India-Pakistan peace processHowever, this doesn't seem to be happening. You'd think the point that there are limits to what Pakistan can do without pushing public tolerance too far, and that they need time to consolidate after last year's fighting, would be obvious in the context of a "surge" based on counter-insurgency principles.
The Economist has a rather good story from Waziristan.