"The Taliban and al-Qaida remain distinct groups with different goals, ideologies, and sources of recruits; there was considerable friction between them before September 11, 2001, and today that friction persists," say the key findings in the New York University study by experts Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn.
The study, titled "Separating the Taliban from al-Qaida: The Core of Success in Afghanistan," said U.S. efforts such as night raids and attempts to fragment the Taliban are inadvertently creating opportunities for al-Qaida to achieve its objectives and preventing achievement of the core goals of the United States and the international community.
"There is room to engage the Taliban on the issues of renouncing al-Qaida and providing guarantees against the use of Afghanistan by international terrorists in a way that will achieve core U.S. goals," say the authors, who have spent a number of years in Afghanistan.
The findings are based on a number of factors including the authors' interviews with Taliban officials in Afghan cities.
The study said many older Taliban leaders are still potential partners for a negotiated settlement.
"They are not implacably opposed to the U.S. or West in general but to specific actions or policies in Afghanistan.
"There would be support for a break with al-Qaida within the senior leadership, but how this is addressed will determine how effective the break is to be," the report said.