US needs talks with Taliban, says ex-Soviet general

A Russian general who served in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation said the US needed to start talking to the Taliban

US needs talks with Taliban, says ex-Soviet general

A Russian general who served in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation said on Wednesday the United States needed to start talking to the Taliban if it was going to succeed in the invasion there.

Ruslan Aushev, who commanded forces in Afghanistan in the mid-1980s and later became president of the Ingushetia region, said the United States was right to send more troops to Afghanistan but would not succeed by military might alone.

"We made a political mistake and that political mistake led to military mistakes," he said of the 1979-89 Soviet occupation, saying that the more than 70,000 U.S. and NATO troops now serving there should not make the same errors.

"Today, the coalition have been there for eight years but what has the average Afghan got from it? Nothing. The rich have remained rich and the poor have remained poor.

"When we were in Afghanistan there was no fanatical religious movement called the Taliban. Now the Taliban are very strong and influential... They need to be engaged if their ideas are going to be defeated.

"At some point you have to talk," he said, speaking via videolink from Moscow during a discussion to mark the 20th anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal, which falls on Feb. 15. The event was hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies and Russian news agency Ria Novosti.

Negotiation call

Other Russian experts on the panel, which was debating Afghanistan's future with regional specialists in London, agreed that without some form of negotiation it would be impossible to defeat the Taliban insurgency.

"I think we should follow the path of dialogue, there is no other way," said Victor Korgun, head of the Afghanistan department at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

"The Taliban is not a single entity... there are elements within it with which we can communicate and negotiate. Russia is in favour of dialogue."

Former U.S. President George W. Bush, who sent U.S. troops into Afghanistan in late 2001 following the Sept. 11 attacks, always ruled out any form of negotiation with insurgents.

President Barack Obama has talked broadly about the need for dialogue with enemies, such as Iran, but has said nothing about making contact with groups such as the Taliban, toppled ruling of Afghanistan.

U.S. ally Saudi Arabia last September hosted what were described as preliminary talks with former Taliban members about the possibility of more formal discussions, but the initiative petered out before a second round could be held.

The Taliban, which has stepped up attacks against foreign troops and its allies throughout Afghanistan in the past year, has rejected the idea of any negotiations as long as foreign troops remain in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has hinted at the possibility of talks with "elements" of the insurgency in an effort to draw the poison from a militancy that shows little sign of weakening and is well funded by the drugs trade.

Reuters

Last Mod: 11 Şubat 2009, 23:20
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