US supports Taliban return to power

October 07, 2008

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WASHINGTON, Oct 6: The United States said on Monday it’s “very supportive” of an Afghan reconciliation effort that could bring the Taliban back into the government in Kabul after severing their ties with Al Qaeda.

A CNN report claimed that the Taliban had already agreed to dump Al Qaeda, a militant group the United States blames for sponsoring the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

“We’re very supportive of an Afghan reconciliation programme,” US State Department’s deputy spokesman Robert Wood told a briefing in Washington.

The State Department official also made it clear that the US had only two preconditions: renunciation of violence and adherence to the Afghan Constitution.

“And, in fact, the Afghan government has outlined criteria for that programme, which we fully support, one of which is renouncing violence, the second, adherence to the constitution,” he said.

Mr Wood emphasised that the talks would not affect “a long-term US goal” to try to build up the Afghan army. “It’s important that Afghans be able to take on security responsibility for themselves,” he said.

US military commanders have acknowledged that there’s no military solution to the Afghan conflict.

In a recent testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen restated his concern that the military effort alone could not bring peace to Afghanistan. “Afghanistan doesn’t just need more boots on the ground. … I’m not convinced we’re winning it in Afghanistan,” he said.

Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, commander of Britain’s 16 Air Assault Brigade, which had just completed its second tour in Afghanistan, told the Sunday Times this weekend that people should “lower their expectations” about how the conflict would end.

He also said they should prepare for a possible deal with the Taliban.

Diplomatic sources here claimed that while the Afghan government had long advocated talks with the Taliban, a mounting death toll among coalition troops and a worsening violence inside Afghanistan forced the Americans to involve Saudi Arabia in the talks.

The Taliban agreed to participate because they also believed that they could not win a war against the US-led coalition, sources said.