Published: 6:47PM GMT 14 Nov 2009
It may already be the best we can do, to just cut a deal with the Taliban: hand over bin Ladin and his co-conspirators, promise not to attack us, and we'll stop attacking you.
What we are hardly ever told about Afghanistan is that it has been for 300 years the scene of a bitter civil war, between two tribal groups of Pashtuns (formerly known as Pathans). On one side are the Durranis – most of the settled population, farmers, traders, the professional middle class. On the other are the Ghilzai, traditionally nomadic, fiercely fundamentalist in religion, whose tribal homelands stretch across into Pakistan as far as Kashmir.
It may already be too late for that. Al-Qa'ida's doctrine of aggressive jihad may have completely won the local hearts and minds away from the more traditional doctrine of defensive jihad. In which case we are stuck, having already taken the tar-baby option.