Taliban Invited to Afghan Peace Summit: A Case of Keeping Your Enemies Closer?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 3, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: They are blowing up people in Afghanistan, yet now Afghan President Hamid Karzai is inviting the Taliban, the people blowing up people, to a peace conference. So what prompted this invitation?

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton joins us live. Ambassador, what do you make of this invitation that the president of Afghanistan is now extending to the Taliban?

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well I think he's following through on peace initiatives he announced last month. The idea here is to try and split elements away from the Taliban, not the hard-core, because they're not going to negotiate, but warlords, local leaders, who are not really Taliban but who joined it for convenience.

From that perspective, I don't think there's a lot to lose. I do think there's a risk that Karzai will appear weak by doing this. He could have waited until we had a better demonstration of military superiority. But, on balance, I don't think there's that much at risk.

VAN SUSTEREN: Always at the end of a conflict, at the end of the war the sides get together and discuss peace. Are we at that point, because maybe we could jump the line I guess is one thought?

BOLTON: I think what Karzai is worried about is what President Obama announced when he gave his West Point speech and noted the increase in U.S. troops that we would begin to bring those troops home in the summer of 2011.

So imagine Karzai's position. If he waited a year until it was March of next year, three, four months before the American troops began to draw back down, he would be in a much weakened bargain position. So I think he may be stepping up the negotiation effort because he thinks his political chances are better now before the Obama withdrawal begins to kick in.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do we know when this war in Afghanistan is over, that it is done, we can go home, or whatever. What's the sign?

BOLTON: I think we have to measure it by our strategic interest. That interest is two-fold, one, to make sure Taliban cannot retake the country and provide Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups with a base for attacks again the United States or our friends.

And number two, whether we've got stability on the Pakistani side of the border so that their Taliban or other extremists don't take control of that government and its arsenal of nuclear weapons. Those are very important strategic interests that not measured by a clear victory on the battlefield.

So I think the short answer to your question is this could go on for a long time.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is to be done or how do we take into consideration or does even President Karzai take into consideration the viciousness and the human atrocities and human rights violations by the Taliban?

BOLTON: That's what some people complain about in bringing some of these warlords over to the government's side. And all I would say is Afghanistan is not Switzerland. The American strategic objective is defeating the Taliban. And to me if that means doing it in connection with some people you wouldn't go out on a blind date with, I think we're going to have to live with that.

There are a lot of those people in the current afghan government as it now stands. Bringing a few more in, if it can fracture Taliban support, is a pretty small cost from my perspective.

VAN SUSTEREN: So I take it from what I hear from you, you think this is a good step forward by President Karzai?

BOLTON: Well, I think a lot of warlords are not really Islamic extremists. Remember the famous quote from Henry VI when he became king of France, "Paris is worth a mass" when he switched from being Protestant to being Catholic.

A lot of these people are just warlords and they take the Taliban label when it's convenient and chuck it when it's not. So if Karzai's move help split some of these people way to strengthen the government's position, I'm all in favor of it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador Bolton, thank you sir.

BOLTON: Thank you.

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