News / Asia

Gates: Low-Level Reconciliation Growing in Afghanistan

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says as more troops flow into Afghanistan and they begin to implement the new U.S. strategy, there has been an increase in the number of low-level Taliban fighters who are surrendering.  But as Afghan President Hamid Karzai begins talks with the leaders of the Taliban and related groups, Gates says he thinks it is too early to expect those committed militants to accept peace on what he considers reasonable terms.

Secretary Gates told a congressional committee he sees two processes as essential to solving Afghanistan's internal disputes in the long term.  

One, he calls "reintegration," and it involves militant foot soldiers, many of whom he says fight to earn money or because they have been intimidated.  He says there has long been a trickle of such people seeking government protection to rejoin society, and the numbers have recently begun to increase.  

"That is already happening.  The numbers are relatively small, but we can already see increases in the number of those [seeking reintegration] at that lower level," he said.

Gates says the burden is now on the Afghan government and its international partners to provide protection and jobs for the former fighters in order to encourage more to join the trend.

But the defense secretary says the other part of a political settlement, which he calls "reconciliation," involves the senior militant leadership, and for that he says it is still "probably early."

"The shift of momentum is not yet strong enough to convince the Taliban leaders that they are, in fact, going to lose," said Gates.  "And it is when they begin to have doubts about whether they can be successful that they may be willing to make a deal.  And I do not think we are there yet," he said.

Secretary Gates believes that may come later, as more foreign troops flow in and the coalition and Afghan government take control of more parts of the country.

But President Karzai is getting the process started.  He is planning a peace council for next month, and this week he met with representatives of Hezb-e-Islami, one of the main Taliban affiliates.  That move resulted in some concern expressed by members of Congress.  

Secretary Gates said any reconciliation and reintegration process must be handled by President Karzai in his own way.  But he laid out some basic conditions to be met to earn U.S. support for any Afghan political settlement.

"Our concern is that the reconciliation take place on the terms of the Afghan government and that it be done from a position of strength, where those who are reconciling, who have been opposed to the Afghan government, agree to put down their weapons, agree to abide by the Afghan constitution and agree to participate in the political process," said Gates.

The proposal Hezb-e-Islami presented to President Karzai did not come close to meeting those criteria.

Gates said U.S. and allied forces are working to create the 'position of strength' he mentioned between now and July of next year, when President Barack Obama has said the Afghan government will have to begin to take responsibility for security in its country.

You May Like

Taiwan President Sounds Warning on Future of China Ties

Current Taiwan government has eased once dangerously tough relations with Beijing since 2008, but next year’s presidential election could change that course More

US Presidential Candidates Woo Hispanic Voters

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton reached out to Hispanic voters this past week in a bid to boost their voter support More

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Documentary is a close-up and personal view of young woman who has become of global symbol of courage and inspiration More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs