Even as he is awaiting the recommendations of a high-level group studying the problem, last Friday President Obama mentioned that trying to divide the Taliban through non-military means was one possible way to emerge victorious in Afghanistan. With the Taliban geographically dispersed, fragmented and effectively leaderless, this course of action looks attractive, at least superficially.
To get to the conclusion suggested, one must start with the assumption that not all Muslim fundamentalists are revolutionaries. At the lowest level of abstraction, of course, this makes sense. One can be a revolutionary without being a fundamentalist, and not all fundamentalists are necessarily revolutionaries. Of course, to be intensely committed to revolution, it helps to have a narrow and sometimes illogical view of how society best works, but it is not essential. The American experience with revolt is a good example of how true fundamentalists can be co-opted or marginalized---but then colonial America wasn't Afghanistan.
The second step in the logic says that working with more moderate fundamentalists---sounds like an oxymoron---will keep them from becoming increasingly radicalized. Now, it stands to reason that adherents to radical Islam are not uniformly rabid, and perhaps there is some progress that can be made with those who are not yet irreversibly hardened. This thinking says that the problem in Southwest Asia may be economic and political as much as it is religious, that religion has become the answer only because politics has not.
Some say that Afghanistan has failed as a state because it has not created a strong central government and coherent national politics. But the underlying assumption is that it can, and there is little evidence that it has the potential for becoming a proper nation in the modern sense, at least not in our lifetimes. Obama's advisors are going to offer that if it's too hard to forge a successful Afghan nation from its disparate power centers, we and our friends---including, most importantly, Arab states---will be much better off if at least some of Afghanistan is free of Taliban threat and influence.
This can probably be done over time, but it won't be easy. Even if the administration is successful at weaning some Afghan leaders from the more radical objectives of the Taliban, it still has the difficult mission of keeping them on our side, and eight years or trying has produced little progress.
The political culture in the United States and most of Europe is republican democracy. In Russia it is oligarchy. In Afghanistan it is allegiance to local chieftains. After years of the effort to come, both the administration and the American people will have to be satisfied with a piebald Afghanistan, one that composed of pockets of serenity and economic development among others of crushing, medieval backwardness. This, of course, will be a perpetually unstable situation, with a scary resemblance to that in Pakistan. But at least Afghanistan won't have nuclear weapons.