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

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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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Why should the Taliban talk to the Western powers? They have defeated them. The Western unseemly haste to exit shows that they realise they cannot win. If only our politicians would read their history. This will make it the third time Britain has been defeated in Afghanistan. As usual there will be a lot of spin to highlight the 'good' we have done to hide the fact that it is a defeat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    The case remains: Islamic extremists will never be friendly with Western secular democracies. Fight them, ignore them or talk to them - nothing matters to those who think they have divine backing. What's the solution? There isn't one except to keep them at arms' length, avoid entanglements and wait for the disillusionment of their supporters when their cause fails to bring improvement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Taliban blow up innocent people: terrorism.
    West blow up innocent people: liberty.

    Anyone who has seen those Call of Duty - type videos of the Americans whooping and cheering as they blow their enemies to pieces will understand that wickedness and evil are universal features of all human beings everywhere. Ultimately we are all just animals who will destroy each other to get ahead, US or Taliban.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    The Taleban were armed and supported by the West originally. They weren't a decent bunch then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Talking before wading in, sending soldiers back in body bags, without limbs, without equipment, spending £billions which could have been spent on services at home.....talking...what a novel idea!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    "Trying to discuss 21st century western democracy with a people who's fundamental belief system is still in the 14-15th century and works off a de centralised tribal/political system was REALLY going to work......."

    I agree, this government financially and politically support the SE, their core vote and totally ignores the rest of the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Yes of course they should. Millions said so. Ten years of very expensive, massive carnage before the inevitable political solution is approached has served only to enrich arms manufacturers. It was terrible, irresponsible governance, by fools not statesmen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    I perfectly agree with the general. This stems from George Bush's arrogance and he was the one who incited terrorism and violence due to his unacceptable approach with the Taliban. The Taliban wanted negotiations with the then George Bush more than a decade ago but Bush was hell-bent to wipe them out and have nothing to do with them. What is the result? Innocent people losing their lives!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    West should not have allowed to create Taliban. West could have avoided creating AlQuida then Afganistan would have been a soviet problem West should not have created a country as homeland for Muslims in India , then this would have been an Indian problem , more Muslims live outside this homeland state actually inside India and India in
    constant struggle to meet their demand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    This whole problem has been a total waste of life on all sides, and a failed policy of political leaders here and usa , war should only be the last resort. Will Cameron learn anything from the past, no way, he and his cronies are spoiling to get our military involved where ever they can.
    Sitting down and talking things out is the best policy. The government says one thing and does another

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Russia, new the going was tough and shipped out, we on the other hand made the Taliban, the fighting force that they are today, especially by supporting them against Russia. You reap what you sow yet! if there really is a route for peace, I would implore the western powers to embrace it. Mistakes have been made by both sides, so a status quo now needs to be implemented, then progress from there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    @ 5 its not the middle east really is it ::(

    also everything is easy with the benefit of hindsight, just another general who is looking for a job when his time is finished.... Trying to discuss 21st century western democracy with a people who's fundamental belief system is still in the 14-15th century and works off a de centralised tribal/political system was REALLY going to work.......

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing! Why should we have anything to do with the Taliban? Why should we have anything to do with Afghanistan? We should simply put up our own defences and deport or imprison anyone within the UK who advocates terrorist action. I do not understand why on earth we try to carry on reasonable conversation with people who are hell-bent on destroying our way of life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Sitting round a table? Discussing politics? Diplomacy? What magic is this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Hark at the 'morally superior' west with their half a million Iraqi kids dead due to sanctions and the million dead in Iraq due to oil / Israel! Sickos.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Why talk when you can go to war. Ask Tony !

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    No sh@ Sherlock! All those lives lost on both sides... Disgraceful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Shouldn't have been anywhere in the middle east is more like it.


Page 28 of 29


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