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

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice 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.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
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 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.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs