As the superpowers military might failed, in its decade-long effort, to put down the Afghan resistance and the American public became weary of the fruitless war, Washington was left with little choice but to woo the once stigmatised and hounded Taliban with the promise of peace. It is obvious now that the two parties, as it has been suspected for quite a while, have been in secret talks with each other. The confirmation of this report came not only from Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday, but also from the outgoing US Defence Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday. State Department spokesman Magon Mattons initial refusal to make any comment on Karzais revelation about the negotiations had, however, given enough indication that some contacts were, in any case, taking place; for he added, However, we have consistently supported an Afghan-led process of reconciliation. Interestingly, though, Mr Karzai maintained that an Afghan push towards peace talks had not reached a stage where the government and the insurgents were meeting, but their representative had been in touch. Precisely, it was to facilitate these parleys between the US and the Taliban that the US had gone to the UN with the request to split the list of terrorist organisations linked to both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban into two. In the meanwhile, however, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid has once again denied having entered into any negotiations with the US. Despite the Taliban denial, it seems logical to conclude from the above observations of Afghan and US officials that Washington is, indeed, in contact directly, or through the Afghan government, with the Taliban to win them over to end their resistance before the much-trumpeted withdrawal of its troops begins next month. The question to ponder in this context is whether the Taliban at the negotiating table with the US represent the freedom fighters? If not, they do not hold the key to the problem, and it is hard to believe that any deal with them would result in peace. Perhaps, a partial drawdown of its troops and not peace is the intention of the US; for that would provide it an excuse for keeping its presence in the country, even after 2014 when it says it would complete the withdrawal. And that might also be the reason for its insistence that Pakistan fight out the militants and not hold talks with them because it fears that its efforts at reconciliation would pay off in the real sense, and the Pentagon would have no justification for stationing its forces in Afghanistan. The presence of its forces would make it easier for the US to make use of the Central Asian energy resources. The 10-year old war might just be the beginning of another Great Game