Major shift in US policy suggests talks with Taliban to ensure Afghan peace

October 28th, 2008 - 12:42 pm ICT by ANI  


Washington , Oct 28 (ANI): Senior officials in the Bush administration have reportedly said that a draft recommendation in a classified White House assessment of US strategy in Afghanistan has called for talks with elements of the Taliban in a bid to ensure peace in Afghanistan .

The recommendation suggested talks to be led by the Afghan central government, but with the active participation of the US administration. The prospective talks would have two main goals — extending the Kabul government’’s authority across Afghanistan ; and persuading some Taliban figures to cease their attacks against U.S. and Afghan targets, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

The proposed policy appears to strike a rare common ground with both presidential candidates. Democratic nominee Barack Obama has said he thinks talks with the Taliban should be considered. Republican contender Sen. John McCain supports has also averred that the US should reach out to tribal leaders in an effort to separate “the reconcilable elements of the insurgency from the irreconcilable elements of the insurgency.

Described as a major shift in US policy that would have been unthinkable a few months ago, the idea is being mulled after taking a cue from a similar approach in Iraq, where a US push to enlist Sunni tribes in the fight against al Qaeda in Iraq helped sharply reduce the country’’s violence, reported the paper.

According to the paper, senior White House and military officials believe that engaging some levels of the Taliban - while excluding top leaders - could help reverse a pronounced downward spiral in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan . Both countries have been destabilized by a recent wave of violence.

The idea is supported by Gen. David Petraeus, who will assume responsibility this week for U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan . Gen. Petraeus used a similar approach in Iraq , where a U.S. push to enlist Sunni tribes in the fight against al Qaeda in Iraq helped sharply reduce the country’’s violence. Gen. Petraeus earlier this month publicly endorsed talks with less extreme Taliban elements, it added.

However, the final White House recommendations, which could differ from the draft, are not expected until after next month’’s elections. The next administration wouldn”t be compelled to implement them. But the support of Gen. Petraeus, the highly regarded incoming head of the US Central Command, could help ensure that the policy is put in place regardless of who wins next month’’s elections.

The US policy review is taking place against the backdrop of ongoing talks between Taliban sympathizers and Afghan government officials. The negotiations, which have been held in recent weeks in Saudi Arabia and moderated by Saudi officials, have primarily involved former Taliban members who have since left the armed group. But a U.S. official said some of the discussions have included current Taliban members and others with close ties to the group’’s leadership.

U.S. officials stress that they would play a supporting role in any future talks with the Taliban, which they say would be led by the Afghan central government and powerful Afghan tribal figures. The talks would primarily include lower-ranking and mid-level Taliban figures, not top officials from the group’’s ruling body. “We”ll never be at the table with Mullah Omar,” one U.S. official said, referring to the fugitive leader of the Taliban. (ANI)

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