US open to talks with most Taliban: Biden

March 10th, 2009 - 10:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Brussels, March 10 (DPA) NATO should seek “pragmatic solutions” to its war in Afghanistan, and these include direct talks with the Taliban, most of whom are only involved in the insurgency for the money, US Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday.
“We are not now winning the war, but the war is far from lost,” Biden said after holding his first talks with allies at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels.

Biden said that to achieve “clear and achievable goals” such as “an Afghanistan that is not a haven for terror and is able to sustain itself,” NATO should search for “pragmatic solutions”.

Asked whether this might involve direct negotiations with the insurgents, as suggested by US President Barack Obama over the weekend, Biden said: “Five percent of the Taliban is incorrigible, not susceptible to anything other than being defeated. Another 25 percent or so are not quite sure, in my view, (about) the intensity of their commitment to the insurgency.

“And roughly 70 percent are involved because of the money,” he added.

Noting that deals with moderate Sunnis had already achieved results in Iraq, Biden said the idea of trying to win over moderate elements of the insurgency was one “worth exploring”.

The new US administration is currently appraising its role in Afghanistan following the 2001 invasion, and Biden said such a “strategic review” would be completed by the end of this month.

Before that, Washington would be listening carefully to what its European allies had to say.

“I came away with a much clearer sense of what our NATO friends would like to see in our review,” Biden said.

“I heard from allies, I heard the concerns, and they listed their priorities,” Biden said. “We will build their ideas into our review, which we expect to present to President Obama before the end of this month.”

Obama has announced the deployment of an additional 17,000 soldiers to Afghanistan, and the US administration has made it clear that it wants allies to increase their commitments to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

At the same time, Washington has moved to allay the concerns of those Europeans that are reluctant to send more troops to combat zones by suggesting that further efforts on the civilian side would be equally welcomed.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Biden had provided the alliance with much “food for thought” as well as “food for action.”

The alliance chief listed presidential elections due to take place in August, as well as ways to beef up the Afghan security forces, among ISAF’s top priorities.

Biden’s talks with de Hoop Scheffer and NATO ambassadors took place just five days after US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited the NATO headquarters, confirming that the Obama administration is keen to re-engage with its European allies.

“I know the people of Europe, like the people of my country, are tired of war, and are tired of this war,” Biden said.

“But we know that it is from the space which joins Afghanistan to Pakistan that the attacks of 9/11 occurred. We know that it is from the same area that extremists planned virtually every major terrorist attack on Europe since 9/11 and the attack on Mumbai.

“As leaders entrusted with the security of our citizens, none of us, none of us, none of us, can deny that the new threat to the 21st century must be dealt with,” Biden said.

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