Here's the report: http://tcf.org/publications/2011/3/afghanistan-negotiating-peace
As I've said in other posts, victory in Afghanistan is when we can rest assured that the Taliban will never again rule it. A settlement is absolutely a way that this could be achieved. It's also achieved when the Afghans can prevent a Taliban takeover on their own, without U.S. combat troops. The ANSF are finally on a pace to be able to do that. As the report you posted makes clear, it is this "can't win now" and "can't win later" realization that drives the Taliban into negotiations.
Now more than ever, it is important not to conduct a hasty retreat or a precipitous withdrawal.
Page 18 of the report summarizes the current strategy's success:
"Meanwhile, despite proclamations of inevitable victory from Taliban leaders in Pakistan, some former Taliban privately seem to accept that its progress in recent years has provoked sufficient counterforce to contain it...The Islamic republic that emerged from the Bonn process has delivered some tangible economic and social improvements...It is developing a sizable army that aspires to professional standards and that, despite problematical ethnic imbalance in its officer corps, appears to enjoy the respect of much of the Afghan public...Taliban forces are sustaining punishing blows that appear to be decimating their mid-level leadership...The lock they had regained over Pashtun areas in the south and east of the country has been disrupted...by intensified U.S.-led military operations. ...The alliance between the government and the forces deployed by NATO remains a formidable obstacle to any prospect of an outright Taliban victory."
I always feel that the threat, the reason we're in Afghanistan, gets too often left out of the conversation. Fortunately, the report doesn't ignore it.
From page 62: "While there have been reports of tensions between the two prior to the September 11 attacks, when the Taliban were providing al Qaeda and its foreign fighters with sanctuary in their country, the fact remains that, despite persistent, significant international pressure, the Taliban would not abandon their al Qaeda connection...There are...serious doubts in the international community that the Taliban and al Qaeda are separable."
A quick withdrawal would be a disaster to the report's goals.
This is where we should have been 5 years ago. At least we're finally getting there. The best chance at pushing the Taliban to a settlement is when they feel victory through arms is not an option.
-FB's Card-Carrying American