RAY SUAREZ: An emboldened Taliban has been increasing its attacks in Afghanistan, like last week's car bombing at the gate of Bagram military base. And besides sending more troops, some top U.S. officials have suggested trying to talk to factions among the militants, and so has Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
An idea first officially advanced by General David Petraeus and Defense Secretary Gates would be to recreate the strategy used in Iraq, where U.S. forces turned Sunni tribal leaders against al-Qaida.
This weekend, President Obama told the New York Times, "There may be some comparable opportunities in Afghanistan and the Pakistani region, but the situation in Afghanistan is, if anything, more complex."
Vice President Biden in Brussels for a NATO meeting today suggested some Taliban militants might be amenable to talking.
JOSEPH BIDEN, Vice President of the United States: Five percent of the Taliban is incorrigible, not susceptible to anything other than being defeated. Another 25 percent or so are not quite sure, in my view, the intensity of their commitment to the insurgency. And roughly 70 percent are involved because of the money, because of them getting paid.
RAY SUAREZ: But today from the Taliban came what seemed to be a firm no. "This is illogical," said Qari Mohammad Yousuf, a Taliban official. "The Taliban are united, have one leader, one aim, one policy."
RAY SUAREZ: Earlier today, I talked with Margaret Warner, who's on a reporting trip for us in Afghanistan. She joined us from Kabul.
Margaret, welcome. When an American leader, military or civilian, makes a pronouncement on Afghan policy, does it get much attention there?
MARGARET WARNER: Well, it does, Ray, in political circles. I mean, President Karzai yesterday in a speech reacted right away to what President Obama said about reaching out to moderates, noting he's been talking about this for some time.
And he said there are elements of the Taliban leadership that are irreconcilable, like those who've made common cause with al-Qaida, but he said he believes there are others who are simply afraid to come home and that they should be welcomed back.
There's also been some discussion on talk television and talk radio here, though I have to say there are so many other pressing issues here, from security to lack of jobs, that it's not the number-one agenda item in the news.
RAY SUAREZ: So what's the reaction been to trying to find elements of the Taliban to talk to?
MARGARET WARNER: Well, Ray, it really depends, of course, who you ask, whom you ask. For instance, today, we were in a very -- in an upscale mall here in Kabul. And we went into a high-end guitar, music instrument shop, which, of course, would never have been allowed to exist during the Taliban.
And the young owner just said, "What a horrible idea," that if the Taliban got back in power in any way, they'd want to shut down stores like his. He already says he lives in fear of just the Taliban that are still around.
On the other hand, we went to see Sema Samar, who's head of the Afghanistan human rights -- independent human rights commission. And she did have a more nuanced view. She said, you know, essentially, it's inevitable. You are going to have to have a political settlement of some sort.
But she said there really -- the U.S. and the Karzai government have to follow strict conditions. And one is not to bargain away any basic rights, especially women's rights, that there has to be some accountability for Taliban leaders who presided over, say, the killing of innocent civilians, which might seem to suggest quite a few of them.
And, finally, she said -- which was quite interesting -- she said, you know, the U.S. and Karzai government need to be able to negotiate from a position of more power or force or strength than they have now militarily, that the Taliban think they're on the march. And for these talks to be successful, the U.S. has to keep the military pressure on.
RAY SUAREZ: Now, you mentioned the owner of a music shop, and one can understand his reaction. But are there Afghans who associate the time of the Taliban with increased stability and peace, even if it could be oppressive at times?
MARGARET WARNER: Oh, there definitely are. I mean, there are definitely people who say, "You know, we didn't have much freedom, but we did have more security."
Then there are also people here in Afghanistan who feel they're in touch with elements of the Taliban. For instance, yesterday we went to see Roshanak Wardak, who's a member of parliament, a woman, from Wardak province, which is one of the ones that's become quite dangerous recently because of increased Taliban and insurgent activity.
And she said, "Look, I know that a lot of them are my constituents," she said. "I know they're dangerous people. I know they destroyed our country, but they are Afghans. We cannot deny them the right to participate in the Afghan government."
And she says that the U.S. and the Karzai government should make it clear that they're ready to talk. However, she doesn't agree that there's any peeling off of the moderates. She said, you know, you have to deal with the top leadership.
And of course, that means, as she put it, the Quetta Shura, that is the Shura or Council in Quetta, Pakistan. And that's the term that both Afghans use and, in fact, U.S. intelligence agencies use to describe where they think Mullah Omar and the top leadership are.
RAY SUAREZ: And what kind of reception would the proposal to talk get amongst the Taliban themselves? You've spoken to one of their representatives, haven't you?
MARGARET WARNER: Well, I have, Ray. Now, we have to say that nobody in the top leadership is believed or admits to be here in Kabul. But there are former associates, former Taliban cabinet ministers -- and I spoke with one of them, named Abdul Salam Zaeef -- and he was the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan. He ended up spending four years in Guantanamo prison. He now lives under the watchful eye of Afghan intelligence here in Kabul.
We went to see him about a week ago. And he said, "Yes, negotiations are absolutely the only way. Neither side is going to win this militarily." And he says, "All Afghans know that; it's just the U.S. standing in the way."
And he went on to make the point that, you know, how can the top Taliban leadership possibly negotiate with either the Karzai government or the U.S. when the U.S. has vowed to capture or kill any top Taliban leader it finds?
So his point was that it's the U.S. position here and the U.S. hostility -- and this may sound very self-serving -- but it's the U.S. hostility that has made it impossible to talk. He went on to say that he thought, once U.S. forces left or if U.S. forces would guarantee the security of top Taliban leaders, that talks could, in fact, take place.
RAY SUAREZ: Margaret Warner is in Afghanistan. Thanks for joining us, Margaret.
MARGARET WARNER: Thanks, Ray.