Thursday, January 28, 2010

US supports Pakistan’s Taliban plan–India livid


WASHINGTON — The White House on Monday was noncommittal but did not rule out Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s plan to ask for Taliban names to be removed from a UN blacklist to spur reconciliation.

Karzai said before heading for a major international conference on Afghanistan in London this week that he would also seek Western support for a plan to offer money and jobs to cajole Taliban fighters into laying down arms.

“I will be making a statement at the conference in London to the effect of removing Taliban names from the UN sanctions list,” Karzai told reporters in Istanbul.

The idea had previously met resistance but “as we are talking today, there is more willingness that this can be reconsidered,” he said.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs noted that top US generals David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal had drawn parallels between Afghanistan and reconciliation schemes that had worked with factions in Iraq.

Gibbs did not comment in detail on Karzai’s plan.

But he said Washington was open to “a similar path to what happened in Iraq… provided that whoever this is accepts the Afghan constitution, renounces violence, and publicly breaks with groups that advocate violence.”

“That’s, I think, what people expect under the notion of reconciliation.”

Karzai wants to bring low- and mid-level fighters into mainstream society to end the gruelling insurgency, but the leadership of Islamist insurgent groups active in the battered country is hostile to negotiations.

McChrystal, the NATO military commander in Afghanistan, has voiced support for negotiated peace.

“As a soldier, my personal feeling is that there’s been enough fighting,” US General Stanley McChrystal said in an interview with Britain’s Financial Times published Monday.

“I believe that a political solution to all conflicts is the inevitable outcome. And it’s the right outcome.”

The White House has several times brought up the tactics of then US-Iraq commander Petraeus, who worked with local Sunni leaders fed up with Al-Qaeda after the Iraq war troop surge.

Karzai was in Istanbul for talks with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday, to be following by a meeting with leaders of his country’s neighbors on Tuesday.

Under a plan announced by US President Barack Obama in December, 30,000 extra US troops will be in Afghanistan this year — on top of more than 70,000 already there — before they begin withdrawing in July 2011.

Karzai will fly on to Berlin and then London, where the conference will focus on corruption, security, good governance and reconciliation with the Taliban. US does not rule out Karzai’s Taliban plan


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