Karzai urges Taliban reconciliation

Taliban fighters should be able to return home, Afghan president tells world leaders.

    Hamid Karzai made his appeal at a security
    conference attended by world leaders [AFP]

    Call for support

    The Afghan president called on world leaders attending the conference, including Joe Biden, the US vice-president; Nicholas Sarkozy, the French president; Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and Nato members, to support his proposal. 

    Video

    US and Afghan support
    for Karzai wanes

    Mark Seddon, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Munich, said: "There will be people here who say that the Taliban are engaged in terrorism, how can you talk to them?
     
    "What is being talked about here in Munich is a strategy that gets everybody on board.
     
    "But having listened to the German defence minister, the senior US personnel and the Afghan president, you get the impression they are some way from getting to an agreed strategy."

    Widespread anger

    Karzai's appeal comes in the wake of a string of attacks across Afghanistan by resurgent Taliban fighters.

    Two US soldiers, an Afghan policeman and a translator were killed on Sunday when a roadside bomb they were trying to disarm in the southern province of Helmand exploded, the Afghan interior ministry said.

    Speaking at the conference, Richard Holbrooke, the US special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said that a new approach is needed to address Afghanistan's security concerns.

    "It is like no other problem we have confronted, and in my view it's going to be much tougher than Iraq ... It is going to be a  long, difficult struggle," he said.

    "What is required in my view is new ideas, better co-ordination within the US government, better co-ordination with our Nato allies and other concerned countries, and the time to get it right."

    Taliban dismissive

    Hamish MacDonald, Al Jazeera's correspondent in the Afghan capital Kabul, said that Karzai's appeal to the Taliban at the Munich conference is the first such call to be made in front of key international allies.

    "President Karzai has said this kind of thing before but he never gone in front of Nato and the United States and said 'look, this is the solution and the way forward'," he said.

    "It is important to say that in the past the Taliban has responded to similar comments by Karzai by saying that it is not interested in reconciliation until foreign forces in Afghanistan leave the country. Clearly, that is not on the agenda at the moment."

    Karzai also said his call had to be part of a larger peacemaking effort for Afghanistan and that foreign forces inside the country should do more to halt civilian casualties.

    Civilian deaths caused by international military operations have caused widespread anger among Afghans.

    US relationship

    Karzai, who is due to take part in presidential elections in August, has seen his approval ratings damaged in the past months by the Taliban offensive, allegations of government corruption and an increase in Afghanistan's opium production. 

    Taliban fighters have in the past dismissed
    calls for reconciliation with Kabul [AFP]
    The appeal by Karzai could be part of a strategy to shore up his flagging presidency and convince international partners that he is the best person to lead Afghanistan, MacDonald said. 

    "President Karzai is playing a very interesting game in terms of strategy; he is facing domestic political pressures, there is a election due in a few months time and he is haemorrhaging support internationally," he said.

    "He seems to be out of favour with the Obama administration and other foreign leaders. It may be he is hoping that his comments [in Munich] will appeal to the US."

    Washington, which is the biggest provider of both money and troops to Afghanistan,  is expected to announce the deployment of 30,000 extra US soldiers to the country.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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