News / Asia

Task Force Calls for Immediate Afghan Talks

Former UN envoy and advisor Lakhdar Brahimi  (File Photo)
Former UN envoy and advisor Lakhdar Brahimi (File Photo)

A new study by a non-governmental task force concludes there is a growing sense of stalemate in Afghanistan that opens the way for a political settlement in the country.

The task force, created by the Washington-based Century Foundation, says neither side in the Afghan conflict can win militarily and moves toward a political settlement should start now.

Related video report by Robert Raffaele

The task force, made up of a wide range of scholars and former international diplomats, says public support in the West for the war in Afghanistan is declining, the Afghan public is increasingly weary of the continuing conflict, and even the Taliban is under growing pressure to pursue a negotiating track.

In a telephone conference call, task force co-chair Lakhdar Brahimi, a former U.N. Special Envoy to Afghanistan, said none of the Taliban should be barred from such a process if they want to participate.

"The Taliban, as I said, are part of the political scenery in Afghanistan," Brahimi said. "We believe that the Taliban, all the Taliban, are potentially candidates for this reconciliation process."

Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington (File Photo)
Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington (File Photo)

Fellow co-chair Thomas Pickering, a former U.S. undersecretary of state, said that could even include the top echelons of the Taliban.

"Who speaks for the Taliban?  It is not, as we all know, a universally tightly bound organization where it is easy to find a single speaker, although my sense is that on questions theological and maybe political, Mullah Omar and perhaps the association with the so-called Quetta Shura provides an initial base for discussions," said Pickering.

But many of the hardline Taliban have voiced opposition to a political settlement and may choose not to participate in negotiations.

US General David Petraeus
US General David Petraeus

The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, said recently the momentum of the Taliban has been halted.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the United States is well-positioned to begin an initial drawdown of troops in July, when, according to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Afghan forces will take over security responsibilities in several areas of the country.  

The United States is scheduled to withdraw most of its combat troops by 2014, conditions permitting.

Task-force member Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, said the last year’s U.S. troop surge has halted Taliban momentum. But he added that it makes no sense to wait until 2014 to get negotiations going.

"I think that we have reversed the momentum of the Talban, but that it is important to begin the negotiations now," said Korb. "And, as the report said, the longer we wait, it is not going to get better.  And I think the optimal time will be this summer, when we start our withdrawal because that will give the Taliban at least some face-saving way out where they can say, well, they were not doing this because of the "[troop] surge. And as we begin to withdraw, this also sends a signal that we are not occupiers and we are not there forever."

The task force says the potentially most promising first step would be the appointment of an internationally designated facilitator who could wade through the complex  issues without undermining the various parties' negotiating positions.

You May Like

Isolation, Despair Weigh on Refugees in Remote German Camp

Refugees resettled near village of Holzdorf deep in German forestland say there is limited interaction with public, mutual feelings of distrust

Britons Divided Over Bombing IS

Surveys show Europeans generally support more military action against Islamic State militants, but sizable opposition exists in Britain

Russia Blacklists Soros Foundations as 'Undesirable'

Russian officials add Soros groups to a list of foreign and international organizations banned from giving grants to Russian partners

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.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs