Sunday, June 27, 2010

Army chief says talks with Taliban should start soon

BBC News online 27 June 2010

The head of the British army believes politicians and military chiefs should talk to members of the Taliban sooner rather than later.

Gen Sir David Richards said that in every counter-insurgency campaign, there was "always a point which you start to negotiate with each other".

Nineteen British personnel have died this month, with 10 deaths in the past nine days.

David Cameron has said he wants UK troops out within five years.

Not giving up

Negotiation with moderate elements of the Taliban is likely to form an important part of future coalition strategy.

General Stanley McChrystal, fired last week as commander of multi-national forces, said there needed to be more engagement with those whose main motivation was financial, rather than ideological.

And at the London Conference on Afghanistan in January, plans were announced for an international fund to help integrate the Taliban back into civilian life.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend, Gen Richards said it was his personal belief that talking to the Taliban should happen "pretty soon".

"If you look at any counter-insurgency campaign throughout history there's always a point at which you start to negotiate with each other, probably through proxies in the first instance, and I don't know when that will happen," he said.

"From my own, and this is a purely private view, I think there's no reason why we shouldn't be looking at that sort of thing pretty soon.
'Maximum pressure'

"But at the same time you've got to continue the work we're doing on the military, governance and development perspectives to make sure they don't think we're giving up. It's a concurrent process and they're both equally important"

But Sir Richard Dannatt, a former head of the Army, told the BBC's Andrew Marr that the military must put "maximum pressure" on the Taliban to clear them out of Afghanistan.

Referring to the PM's comments about troop withdrawal, Sir Richard said it was important the Taliban were not able to "sit out" the time until international forces left their country.

He said counter-insurgency operations "always take time" and it was important the military effort was properly resourced and given political support.

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