US military chief prudent on talks with Taliban

Agence France-Presse
The top US military commander urged a cautious approach as the US reaches out to the Taliban to try to help launch reconciliation talks in Afghanistan

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey. Photo by EPA/Michael Reynolds

WASHINGTON, USA – The top US military commander on Sunday, July 7, urged a cautious approach as the United States reaches out to the Taliban to try to help launch reconciliation talks in Afghanistan.

“It is always difficult to think about the losses that we’ve suffered and the idea that at some point we would find reconciliation with the Taliban,” General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told CNN.

“But I’m mindful of the fact that all wars end with some level of political reconciliation. That’s just the way they eventually end.”

Some 3,200 US military personnel have been killed since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001 ousted the Islamic militant Taliban leadership.

Now the US and NATO-led forces are planning to withdraw all combat troops by the end of 2014, and are trying to bring about a reconciliation effort between the Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban.

Dempsey acknowledged in his interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” that he had some concerns about negotiating with the same militants which have engaged in an increasingly bloody insurgency in Afghanistan.

“I think there’s several flavors of Taliban. I think there are some who are reconcilable and undoubtedly some that are not,” he said.

“And so long as we can have enough precision in the way we reach out to them, then I won’t have the kind of concerns you’re talking about, about whether the sacrifices would somehow be undermined.”

He reflected on how when he was a undergraduate at the prestigious West Point military school he had been preparing to go to Vietnam, and yet recently he had hosted his Vietnamese counterpart in Washington.

“I had him to my quarters for dinner. And outside, we flew their flag next to our flag. And I was almost unnerved by it,” Dempsey admitted.

“And you know, here we are now some years later, and they are seeking to become much closer partners with us.”

Nascent talks between the US and Taliban were due to start last month after the Taliban opened an office in Doha, but collapsed before they even began.

On the other hand, the Taliban have consistently refused to meet the High Peace Council (HPC), the official negotiators of the Afghan government, saying Karzai is a puppet of the United States.

Karzai suspended talks over a separate US-Afghanistan security pact, which would allow some US troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2014, in protest at how the Taliban had opened the Doha office that appeared as if it was an embassy.

Dempsey said he believed that in the coming months “we will get the Afghan security forces to a point where they will be able to provide security generally across the country.

“The problem is, I can’t speak with much optimism at this point about the other factors of governance, be they economic or be they political. They have to keep pace.” –

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