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On the dusty streets of Kabul, the public mood reflects exhaustion with a war largely fought in the countryside that last week entered its 10th year.

“It’s about time the Taliban were brought back in since during their time there was utter security and no corruption,” said a street sweeper named Hamidullah, reflecting a widely held view in the Afghan capital.

A failure to come to a negotiated settlement with the Taliban could open the door for partitioning Afghanistan as proposed by former U.S. Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill. According to the plan, NATO would accept that defeating the insurgency was a lost cause and retreat behind a steel wall in a Tajik-majority remainder state. South of the new border, a new “Pashtunistan,” centered in Kandahar, would emerge.

“If you have the partition of Afghanistan, then you open the door to partitioning Iran, Pakistan, some Central Asian countries and perhaps even China, as the Baloch, Uzbeks, Tajiks and ethnic Turks demand independence,” said Mr. Sanjar, the publisher. “It would conjure up the very potent specter of Islamic terrorism mixed with nationalism, and threaten the very weak post-Soviet countries of Central Asia with collapse.”

“If the Pakistani establishment makes a concerted and sincere effort to complete the talks, this process could be completed in three to six months’ time,” said Mr. Moradian, the Afghan Foreign Ministry official. “The Afghan conflict won’t be over, but we’ll see huge breakthrough in integrating the Taliban into the government by accepting the Afghan Constitution and severing ties to international terrorism.”