The United States recognizes that the Taliban are now part of the political fabric of Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here on Friday, but the group must be prepared to play a legitimate role before it can reconcile with the Afghan government.
That means, Mr. Gates said, that the Taliban must participate in elections, not oppose education and not assassinate local officials. [continued…]
One of the three main leaders of the Afghan insurgency, mercurial warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has a long history of switching sides, and once fought against his current Taliban allies.
Now, he has held out the possibility of negotiating with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and outlined a roadmap for political reconciliation, opening what could be the most promising avenue for Mr. Karzai’s effort to peacefully resolve the conflict.
It is far from certain that any talks with Mr. Hekmatyar will begin, let alone succeed. But in contrast to Taliban leader Mullah Omar and allied insurgent chief Sirajuddin Haqqani, who refuse any talks with Kabul as long as foreign troops remain in the country, Mr. Hekmatyar took a much more conciliatory line in a recent video.
“We have no agreement with the Taliban—not for fighting the war, and not for the peace,” said Mr. Hekmatyar, who commands the loyalty of thousands of insurgents. “The only thing that unites the Taliban and [us] is the war against the foreigners.” [continued…]
The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and senior Afghan officials have resisted moving forward with a bold and potentially risky initiative to support local militias in Afghanistan that are willing to defend their villages against insurgents, according to U.S. officials.
Their concerns have slowed the implementation of a key effort to provide security in places where there are relatively few NATO forces or Afghan police and Army units. U.S. military officials had wanted to get the initiative — developed under the leadership of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan — off to a quick start this year.
The plan was to take advantage of the emergence of informal village security forces that were taking up arms against outside insurgents. The hope was that the new program could yield thousands of new security forces relatively fast, bridging the gap until more army and police forces could be trained. But before the initiative can be implemented on a broader scale, Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry must approve the release of more money for it. [continued…]