West should have talked to Taliban - British general

General Nick Carter General Nick Carter said the Taliban should have been involved in talks after they were ousted

Related Stories

The West should have tried talking to the Taliban a decade ago, the UK's top general in Afghanistan has said.

Gen Nick Carter told the Guardian it would have been easier to find a political solution when they were on the run in 2002.

Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged that the original settlement for Afghanistan "could have been better arranged".

His comments come days after planned negotiations with the Taliban stalled.

Gen Carter also warned Afghan forces would need military and financial support after troops leave in 2014.

The Kabul government would have only shaky control over some areas, he said.

Negotiation attempts

A major conference on the future of Afghanistan held in Bonn, Germany, over a decade ago did not include the defeated Taliban former government of Afghanistan.

Gen Carter, deputy commander of the Nato-led coalition, acknowledged it was easy to be wise with the benefit of hindsight but added: "Back in 2002, the Taliban were on the run.

"I think that at that stage, if we had been very prescient, we might have spotted that a final political solution to what started in 2001, from our perspective, would have involved getting all Afghans to sit at the table and talk about their future.

"The problems that we have been encountering over the period since then are essentially political problems, and political problems are only ever solved by people talking to each other."

David Cameron eating with troops in Camp Bastion The prime minister ate with UK troops at Camp Bastion

Speaking as he visited UK troops in Camp Bastion on Armed Forces Day, The prime minister said he was encouraged that the Taliban no longer wanted Afghanistan to be "a haven for terror".

He said: "You can argue that the settlement we put in place in 2001 could have been better arranged.

He added: "You have to remember why we came here and that was because the Taliban regime allowed Al Qaeda to have a base in Afghanistan, so that's why that regime was removed, why an Afghan democracy has been created and why we have now built up an Afghan National Army and police force which are capable of securing this country.

"But do we want people to give up weapons to give up an armed struggle and join a political process so that everyone in Afghanistan can be part of that political future, yes."

Doha talks row

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said it would have been "very difficult" to negotiate with the Taliban a decade ago.

He said: "I suspect ten years ago it would have been very difficult.

"We've reset the parameters of the debate by building the Afghan security forces, by supporting the Afghan government to reach out across the country, delivering services to the people in a way that has given it legitimacy, and I think the time is right now for that negotiation to take place."

Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed caution over whether peace talks on Afghanistan with the Taliban could take place.

A row over the status of a Taliban office in Qatar's capital Doha has overshadowed efforts to start peace negotiations there.

BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt said the row had simply underlined the diplomatic and practical difficulties that remained for anyone wishing to talk to the Taliban.

Gen Carter said he was confident that Nato's handover of security to Afghan forces would eventually bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Gradual withdrawal

He said that overall the police and army had been shaped into sustainable institutions strong enough to protect a critical presidential election next year and guarantee stability for the majority of the country after Western forces withdrew.

However, he added that the Afghan army and police would still need help in the years to come because they had been built up very quickly.

However, he expressed optimism about Afghanistan's future as long as the US and its allies came through on promises of financial and military support.

Some 8,000 British troops are still serving in Afghanistan, around half of them at Camp Bastion in Helmand province, ­many of them still mentoring or advising Afghan forces.

Until last year, the UK had 137 bases in Helmand but the gradual withdrawal ahead of the end of combat operations by 2015 means the mission is gradually changing with just 13 bases still operating.


More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 564.

    Poor misguided Johnathon, do you really think this goes on? This is what is being reported to justify the war. It has nothing to do with democracy or freedom, this is about capitalism and the need to obtain the diamonds and other precious stones. Ethnic Cleansing, what planet are you on?....no body batted an eye lid when it came to the massacres in Bosnia, Burma not being reported, why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.

    claussim @562
    'treaty obligation -
    defend our democratic VALUES'

    Best method, of defence? 'Attack', by true example

    'Democracy' cannot be limited to transient fragile 'states of balance' between warring factions, perhaps 'tolerable' to most 'in good times', at the expense of many more worldwide, and of the future 'for all'

    Rule Of, For, By, The EQUAL People. Or ignorant, hypocritical, doomed

  • rate this

    Comment number 562.

    NATO should stay at home and only fullfill its treaty obligation- defend our democratic VALUES against foreign agression.
    NATO is not and should NOT be a international policeman.
    Democracy will ONLY develop when and if a pluralistic civic society exist or IS wanted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 561.

    How can nations negotiate with people who believe in a medieval ideology and are not prepared to accept alternative ideas?
    What should we compromise on?
    The massacre of non-believers
    Raping women
    Starvation and leaving people to suffocate
    Ethnic cleansing
    Human trafficking
    Sex slavery
    Preventing girls being educated

    Would the UK have negotiated with Hitler?

  • rate this

    Comment number 560.

    I'm not a fan of conspiracy theories but this raises some eyebrows over whether the war was avertable



Comments 5 of 564


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.