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Central & South Asia
Western donors 'back Taliban plan'
US and UK to give support to attempts to reconcile with Taliban fighters, Karzai says.
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2010 21:49 GMT

Karzai's plan would see Taliban fighters paid and resettled if they laid down their weapons [AFP]
 

Afghanistan's renewed efforts for reconciliation with the Taliban have the backing of the US and Europe, Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has said.

Karzai's plans, scheduled to be discussed at a conference in London on Thursday, include reintegrating Taliban fighters into society by paying and resettling them if they lay down their weapons.

"This ... renewed effort has the backing of our partners, particularly the US and Europe," he told a news conference in Istanbul, Turkey, on Monday.

Karzai said his government had tried many times in the past to find ways of rehabilitating Taliban fighters who were not part of al-Qaeda, but had previously not had the support of its international partners.

'Splitting the Taliban'

Gordon Brown, the UK prime minister, who will host the talks, said on Monday that over the long-term it might be possible to encourage many of those waging war against international troops to stop.

It is "right to believe that over the long-term we can split the Taliban," Brown said.

"I think any Afghans can play a role if they focus on the future, and not the past"

Gen Stanley McChrystal,
US and Nato commander in Afghanistan

If the Afghan government "can bring over some people previously associated with the Taliban by the renunciation of violence, this would be of value to the peace process," he said.

British officials said that international funding for Karzai's programme was likely to be agreed at the London meeting.

A key component of Karzai's strategy would also be to help Afghans provide for their own security by building militias that would include former Taliban fighters.

The London conference is also expected to agree a framework for the Afghan government to begin taking charge of security, in line with a timetable set by Barack Obama, the US president, to start drawing down US troops in 2011.

The conference will be the first major international summit on Afghanistan since Barack Obama, the US president, announced his military strategy last month, which included an increase of 30,000 US troops to the country.

Seniors, not soldiers

General David Petraeus, the head of the US Central Command, and General Stanley McChrystal, commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, have said that focus on the dealing with the Taliban should take place at a more senior level.

Petraeus told the UK's Times newspaper: "The concept of reconciliation, of talks between senior Afghan officials and senior Taliban or other insurgent leaders, perhaps involving some Pakistani officials as well, is another possibility."

Karzai's plan is expected to be endorsed and funded by his allies in London [AFP] 
McChrystal told the Financial Times that increased troop levels could weaken the Taliban enough for its leaders to accept a peace deal, holding out the possibility that the Taliban eventually could help run the country.

"It's not my job to extend olive branches, but it is my job to help set conditions where people in the right positions can have options on the way forward," he said.

"I think any Afghans can play a role if they focus on the future, and not the past," he said.

General Sir David Richards, the British army chief, said international forces should only negotiate with the Taliban from a position of strength, and the terms of any deal should include a requirement that the Taliban fighters cut ties to al-Qaeda.

"I think, while this is always something, we must entertain it's got to be done from a position of relative strength and the knowledge on their part that they could just lose.

"So it's a matter of timing, not the principle." 

Haider Mullick, an Afghanistan analyst from the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU), told Al Jazeera: "In Afghanistan, the Nato forces and Isaf [International Security Assistance Force] are not in a position of strength. They need to get into a position of strength and that is why these 30,000 troops are so key to change the wave in Afghanistan."

Attempts to win over Taliban fighters have met with only limited success in the past, but Karzai is hoping international funding will underpin a more formal reconciliation programme.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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