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Report Argues Against Reconciliation with Taliban

A new report released by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says the United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan should not try to reach an agreement with the Taliban anytime soon. Analysts say the Taliban has little reason to negotiate a settlement to the conflict that is now viewed by many as a stalemate.

U.S. President Barack Obama says America's goal for Afghanistan and Pakistan is to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida and the Taliban and to prevent their return to either country in the future.

Mr. Obama has authorized sending more than 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

He has also ordered a surge in economic aid and civilian manpower to help both countries.

When the president announced his new strategy for Afghanistan on March 27, he said there needed to be an effort to bring together groups that have fought each other for many years.

"In a country with extreme poverty that has been at war for decades, there will also be no peace without reconciliation among former enemies. Now, I have no illusion that this will be easy," he said.

Mr. Obama acknowledged there is an uncompromising core of the Taliban that must be met with military force and defeated.

But he said, some insurgents can be reconciled and returned to local communities.

"There are also those who have taken up arms because of coercion or simply for a price. These Afghans must have the option to choose a different course. And that is why we will work with local leaders, the Afghan government and international partners to have a reconciliation process in every province," he added.

A new report issued by the Carnegie Endowment recommends against any reconciliation effort, is calling the idea both premature and unnecessary for the success of Western goals in the country.

Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, Said Jawad, says it is too early to open talks with the insurgents.

"Engagement with the Taliban is truly premature and a weak policy option under the current security threat. Negotiating with the Taliban will only succeed if you talk to them from the position of strength. As long as the Taliban perceive that they are successful, there is no need for them to talk to any of us," he said.

Ali Jalali is a former interior minister of Afghanistan and is currently a professor at the National Defense University in Washington.

Jalali says until the Afghan government and NATO forces control large areas of territory and win the trust of the people, the Taliban will have no incentive to engage in peace talks.

"The Taliban believe that they are winning. So with that kind of a situation that you have in Afghanistan I do not think the Taliban have the incentives, now, to get engaged in serious talks that will lead to peace and stability or a kind of an agreement," he said.

The Carnegie report says political-military success in Afghanistan is possible, but will require a significant improvement in the performance of the Afghan government.

The report's author, Carnegie senior associate Ashley Tellis, says achieving victory in Afghanistan requires creating an effective federal government that can control its national territory and deliver personal security, responsive governance and economic development.

Tellis says the current Afghan government is far from reaching those goals.

"Inadequacies in governance, particularly in the part of the government of Afghanistan and in particular I would flag the absence of order, the absence of probity, which is a polite way of talking about the pervasiveness of corruption, and the failure to deliver services to the Afghan people," he said.

Some members of the U.S. Congress are voicing growing concerns about what they see as the Obama administration's open-ended commitment to the war in Afghanistan.

Even leaders in Mr. Obama's Democratic Party are warning he may have only another year of political support to turn around the military situation in the country.

Analyst Ashley Tellis says defeating al-Qaida and the Taliban is likely to take much longer.

"We are just at the beginning of a strategy that will work itself out over the next two to three years. We should not expect any transformation before that. So I see this as essentially the down payment on something that we are going to be involved in for a long time to come," he said.

The Carnegie report says reconciliation in Afghanistan can only come through a political-military victory that diminishes the rewards for continued resistance.

It says if such success is achieved, reconciliation between militants and the state will become inevitable.