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Assessing the Taliban46:16
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In this photo taken Sunday, Oct. 4, 2009, new Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, left, sits with his comrade Waliur Rehman during a meeting with media in Sararogha in the Pakistani tribal area of South Waziristan along the Afghanistan border. (AP)
In this photo taken Sunday, Oct. 4, 2009, new Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, left, sits with his comrade Waliur Rehman during a meeting with media in Sararogha in the Pakistani tribal area of South Waziristan along the Afghanistan border. (AP)

Full boil in Afghanistan today. Helicopters down. Fourteen Americans dead. Anti-American protest in the streets of Kabul.
The Taliban crowing. But what is the Taliban? Is it a patched-together crew of outback opportunists that might be bought off, brought in, worked with to defuse Afghanistan and let the U.S. and NATO ramp down?
Is it a stone-cold ally of Al Qaeda committed to global war with the United States that must defeated?
Is it something else? The answer is central to America’s decision on troop levels for Afghanistan.
This hour, On Point: We’re looking again at the Taliban.
You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.Guests:

Joining us from Washington is Peter Bergen, longtime journalist and senior fellow at the New America Foundation, where he co-directs the Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative. He's author of “The Osama Bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda’s Leader," and editor of the Af-Pak Channel, at ForeignPolicy.com.  Read Peter's piece on the Taliban-al-Qaeda merger in The New Republic.

Michael Semple, regional specialist on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and currently a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard. He's worked in the Af-Pak region for more than 20 years, most recently as the deputy head of the EU Mission to Afghanistan.  His new book is “Reconciliation in Afghanistan.”  Read Michael's piece on "Flipping the Taliban" in Foreign Affairs.

Read journalist David Rohde's account of being held hostage by the Taliban for 7 months,  in the New York Times.

This program aired on October 26, 2009.

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