“The chief objective of both the Afghanistan and Pakistan Taliban groupings is to control territory in Central and South Asia. Al Qaeda’s agenda, meanwhile, is diffuse, global, and inherently anti-American. So what has kept the al Qaeda–Taliban alliance together? The boons al Qaeda receives are obvious -- safe haven, support, and training grounds. Exactly how the Taliban benefits is less clear, especially when one considers the high costs the alliance has carried for them.”
Some characterize the al Qaeda–Taliban relationship as a marriage of convenience, in which both sides benefit for the time being but are not inextricably linked. The Taliban support al Qaeda now because they are united against a common enemy (i.e., the United States), but those ties could be severed if significant elements of the Taliban were offered the right incentives.
“In addition to standard counterterrorism and counterinsurgency measures, the Obama administration should do what it can to support a viable alternative to the Taliban, its sources of legitimacy and brand of political Islam. Progress in building effective states and healthy nationalisms in Afghanistan and Pakistan is bound to be elusive. Without it, however, it will be difficult to eradicate perceptions that the conflict is one between local heroes (the Taliban) and American puppets (the Afghan and Pakistani national governments).”