US endorses efforts to reach out to Taliban

October 9th, 2008 - 2:47 pm ICT by ANI  


Washington, Oct 9 (ANI): With US and NATO forces suffering their deadliest year so far in Afghanistan, a rising chorus of voices, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the incoming head of US Central Command General David Petraeus, have endorsed efforts to reach out to the Taliban.
“That is one of the key long-term solutions in Afghanistan, just as it has been in Iraq. Part of the solution is reconciliation with people who are willing to work with the Afghan government going forward,” CBS News quoted Gates, as saying on Monday.
General David Petraeus, who will become responsible for US military operations in Afghanistan as head of US Central Command on October 31, agreed.
“I do think you have to talk to enemies,” Petraeus said on Wednesday at an appearance at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, when asked about potential dialogue with the Taliban.
“You”ve got to set things up. You”ve got to know who you”re talking to. You”ve got to have your objectives straight,” he said.
“But I mean, what we did do in Iraq ultimately was sit down with some of those that were shooting at us. What we tried to do was identify those who might be reconcilable,” Petraeus added.
In terms of Afghanistan, he said: “The key there is making sure that all of that is done in complete coordination with complete support of the Afghan government - and with President Karzai.”
But entering negotiations with the Taliban raises difficult issues.
It is not clear whether there is a unified Taliban command structure that could engage in serious talks, and the group still embraces the hard-line ideology that made them pariahs in the West until their ouster from power in 2001.
An unprecedented number of US troops - about 32,000 - are in Afghanistan today, and the Pentagon plans to send several thousand more in the coming months. Gates is expected to press for additional troops and money for the fight in Afghanistan at this week’’s NATO meeting.
At least 131 US troops have died in Afghanistan this year, surpassing the previous annual high of 111 in 2007. An additional 100 troops from other NATO nations have died in 2008.
Speaking in London on Monday, US General John Craddock, NATO’’s supreme operational commander, said he is open to talks with the Taliban as long as any peacemaking bid is led by the Afghan Government, not Western forces. (ANI)

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