Friday, July 31, 2009

Gen McChrystal: Dialogue with Taliban Possible

WASHINGTON, July 29: As part of a new strategy, the United States and its Nato allies in Afghanistan are trying to reach out to the second tier of the Taliban leadership, while continuing to use military force to tame or eliminate the hardcore.

Gen Stanley McChrystal, the new US commander in Afghanistan, provided some insight into the new strategy in an interview published on Wednesday. Gen McChrystal, who has prepared a briefing paper for President Barack Obama on the situation in Afghanistan, disagreed with those who say that no dialogue with the Taliban was possible.

“There is significant potential to go after what I would call mid- and low-level Taliban fighters and leaders and offer them re-integration into Afghanistan under the constitution,” he said.

“Most of the fighters we see in Afghanistan are Afghans, some with foreign cadre with them. But most we don’t see are deeply ideological or even politically motivated,” he added. “Most are operating for pay; some are under a commander’s charismatic leadership; some are frustrated with local leaders.”

The general said that his briefing paper provided “a strategic assessment” of the Afghan situation and suggested “an appropriate way ahead and some specific recommendations”. He did not outline those recommendations. But diplomatic sources who spoke to Dawn in Washington, revealed that as part of the new strategy, the US and Nato troops had started “clearing the first tier of the Taliban leadership” comprising hardcore militants. US policy planners hope that doing so would not only eliminate the hardline Taliban fighters; it will also allow “the second tier” to come forward. The second tier is regarded as crucial because such local leaders control large numbers of Taliban fighters in Pashtun-dominated southern Afghanistan and appear willing to talk.

The first tier of Taliban commanders – hardliners around Mullah Omar — were disregarded because of their links to Al Qaeda and their refusal to talk.

The third tier foot soldiers with no strong commitments are not approached because US policy-makers believe that they will follow their tribal leaders.

The second tier is considered susceptible to peace overtures also because it comprises tribal leaders who joined the Taliban out of tribal loyalty and financial and political benefits and not for ideological commitment.

To achieve this target, the Americans have sent 4,000 additional troops to the provinces where the Taliban have had a strong hold. They are also urging their Nato allies to increase their troops as well.

Read the full report here.

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