News / Middle East

    Petraeus: NATO Pressure Forcing Taliban to Seek Peace

    General David Petraeus made the comments in an interview in Kabul Friday with VOA's Persian News Network.

    Petraeus: NATO Pressure Forcing Taliban to Seek Peace
    Petraeus: NATO Pressure Forcing Taliban to Seek Peace

    Multimedia

    The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan says coalition progress in recent months has stopped Taliban advances in most of the country, and is putting pressure on even senior leaders of the group to seek a peace deal with the Afghan government.

    General Petraeus has spoken of progress in specific parts of Afghanistan before, but now he says that in the last three-to-six months Afghan troops and his international forces have changed the situation in most of the country.

    "I think the Taliban momentum has, as I noted earlier, been reversed in many areas and certainly arrested in the bulk of the country," said Petraeus. "I wouldn't say all parts.  There are certainly areas in which they still might have the local initiative.  But as a broad characterization I think that the Taliban, again, is feeling enormous pain right now, and that pressure is going to increase."

    Petraeus says there is "much hard fighting" still to be done, and U.S. casualties are up sharply this year with the increase in forces and operations in traditional Taliban strongholds, particularly in the south.  But the general says many members of the Taliban, including some senior leaders, are seeking reconciliation because of the combination of deadly special operations strikes on the militant group's fighters and field commanders, and increased efforts by the Afghan government and its international partners to improve security and provide development and governance in more parts of the country.

    "Most of the mid-level leaders, and even some of the senior leaders, we think, are willing to return to Afghanistan, or might be willing to return to Afghanistan," Petraeus said. "And, frankly, the more pressure that they see on those who are working for them in Afghanistan, the more they feel the desire to come home, because again they are, as you noted, the sons of Afghanistan, and have just been led astray in many cases, not all, but in a number of cases."

    Still, General Petraeus cautions that what he calls "various strands of outreach from various Taliban leaders," some inside Afghanistan and some outside, are in the very early stages.

    "These can best be characterized as pre-preliminary discussions.  There's certainly nothing here that rises to the level of, quote, talks or negotiations.  These are exploratory discussions that are taking place," he added.

    The general says some form of reconciliation is part of the solution to virtually all insurgencies, and the same will be true in Afghanistan.  But he adds the fighters and leaders who want to re-join society must agree to lay down their arms, renounce militancy and violence, and pledge to respect the Afghan constitution and its protection of human rights, as President Hamid Karzai has demanded.

    On the role of Afghanistan's neighbors, General Petraeus repeated U.S. government charges that Iran is supporting both the Afghan government and groups trying to overthrow it, including the Taliban.

     

    A US Army soldier searches an associate of a suspected Taliban IED placer, seen in a wheelbarrow, who was killed in a coalition missile strike in Zhari district, Kandahar province (File)
    A US Army soldier searches an associate of a suspected Taliban IED placer, seen in a wheelbarrow, who was killed in a coalition missile strike in Zhari district, Kandahar province (File)

    "Iran does provide, again, what I would characterize as modest amounts of training, equipping, funding and, to some degree, direction to those Taliban elements that are active in the southwest and western part of the country," said Petraeus.

    The general called Iran's "conflicting activities" in Afghanistan "somewhat disingenuous at best."  And he speculated that the policy must cause some "interesting discussion" among the various leaders in Tehran.  He said the Iranians do not want the Taliban to return to power in Afghanistan, but also do not "want see life too easy for the western coalition."  

    General Petraeus also predicted that he will be able to begin to withdraw U.S. troops and transfer authority to Afghan forces by July of next year, as President Barack Obama ordered when he authorized the deployment of 30,000 additional U.S. troops last December.  But the general stressed the pace of the withdrawal will be determined by the security situation at the time.

    "It has been much misunderstood, I might add.  Certainly the Taliban, [and] others, have seized on July, 2011 and made much more of it than I think is warranted.  President Obama and the NATO Secretary General [Anders Fogh Rasmussen], in recent weeks alone, have each stated that they intend to stay in Afghanistan as long as it takes to get the job done.  Their quote, not mine."

    The July, 2011 date has been much criticized by analysts and some members of the U.S. Congress, who believe it provides encouragement to Taliban fighters and makes it difficult for ordinary Afghans to side with the Kabul government.  But General Petraeus told VOA as long as the drawdown is "conditions based" he does not see how anyone can make "an intellectual argument" against it.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    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.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora