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 84.

    Did Carter make his thoughts known 10 years ago? Of course not. He's just trying to appear clever now and hoping the World won't notice. What an idiot!

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    I've yet to hear a single politician give a coherent reason for exactly WHY we've been involved in this pointless bloody conflict for the last 10 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    What I and so many others would like to know, who has been advising the War Office and the politicians to continue this hopeless cause. Frankly, it is truly criminal that so many of our finest troops have been wasted in this totally pointless adventure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Agreed. It is absolutely tragic that the people of "liberated" Iraq continue to face hell on earth on a daily basis. I seem to recall 30 odd people being blown up on the same day that as the Boston bombing - it barely made the news whereas Boston received saturation coverage for a week.

    We really need to think about what we're doing in the name of democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    This is still based on the idea that you can force people to negotiate through military force. Doh

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    I hate the references here to warmongers etc etc.

    The Taliban are nothing more than bully boy animals that deserve to be driven from the Earth.

    For every soldier that has died we should be there until the job is done and the last of their evil is driven from the earth.

    You don't negotiate with those who would bomb and decapitate their own.

    As I say until its done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    I just despair. I have only be saying this for the past 10 years. 444 brave young soldiers lives wasted, near £80 billions wasted and tell me for what ? The Taliban will be in the presidential palace in Kabul within 6 months of ISAF leaving. Frankly, it is just beyond belief.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    £40,000,000,000 (BILLION) wasted. Hundreds of our finest young British soldiers killed, thousands injured and maimed. Thousands of innocent Afghans killed in their own country. The Taliban a legitimate political entity had the support of 40% of their countrymen about the same as New Labour had here. We could/should have talked 10 years ago but for the ignorance of the US administration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    When we retreat, defeated in 2014, afghan will return to the internal conflict that prevailed before we took up occupation, we have achieved nothing, and probably prolonged a conflict that may of been resolved by the afghan nation.
    Meanwhile, back in Britain, we would not have sent our sons and daughters to be maimed and killed, we would not be 100's billions out of pocket.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    We need far greater sovereignty over our destiny.
    Therein lies the irony of the perpetual anti EU bleating of the swivel eyed. Brussels level of influence over the UK is minute in comparison to that wielded by the west wing weapons of mass destruction.

    As long as US lackies,like Fox and Hannan, continue to do Washington's bidding we will remain as the subjugated 51st state in all but name.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    west should have to leave this war , how could you bring peace for your nation to kill peoples of other nation , Taliban just want peace if other nation leave Afganistan , how could you punish all nation just cuz of one person osama bin laden , he did 9/11 not Afganistani peoples , if some christion do wrong its not mean to punish all christions

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Nobody wants to see the Taliban back in power,but people hate the government and the parliament which doesn't care about their security.

    The 'open market' has led many into financial disaster.

    The Afghanistan government is useless.

    Afghanistan is just a battlefield of ideology, opium and political corruption. a failed state cursed by brutal fundamentalism and rampant corruption

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    The US started this war thinking it'd be a stroll in the park - cf, Grenada 1983. Dubya had no grip of foreign affairs, & saw it as a way to spread the Coca-Cola & McDonald's franchises. The militarists saw it as an opportunity to play with their shiny new toys of death, but the fate of the infantry was never considered. Thousands have died to no effect - hence the need to re-write history. *****!

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    West should have talked to Taliban

    P.s water is wet

    Of course we should of, we all know that. But at the time after 9/11 there was no convincing bush and the Americans to talk. They acted like a child whose friend has pulled a prank on them, they wanted nothing but revenge, and Blair blindly followed them in

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Well since we are playing the hindsight game, maybe when the USSR intervened in Afghanistan, called by the Afghan government, to deal with the mujahideen terrorists,which included Osama Bin Laden, we should have left then do their work. Instead we sent millions of pounds to the terrorist to help them take power and establish one of the most horrible dictatorship ever. The West never learns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    I do not think the Taliban were interested in talking to anyone at that time.

    Remember the joyous scenes when the twin towers were hit? The Taliban and their friends Al Qaeda were on a high and obviously in no mood to listen.

    What if nothing had been done? Would the Taliban and Al Qaeda hsve stopped? Not only was USA regarded as the `big satan' we, being the West were regarded nearly as bad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    I always thought the popular line trotted out by Western politicians was,

    "We do not negotiate with terrorists"

    (except when it suits us, eh).....

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Hague, like Senator Fox was a core member of the Atlantic Bridge - so called charity funded by Team PAYE. Key aim? Please/placate their US masters.Mission accomplished.

    I really wish the swivel eyed wing (Fox, Hannan, Bone ,Mad Nad. The Cornerstoners, 1922 mob et al) of the tory party would migrate Stateside and join their fruitcake Tea Party cousins.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    The Afghanistan invasion and occupation is another chapter from an unending narrative of failed/corrupt pro-Israel middle-east foreign policy. The real discussion should be how to wrestle back some democracy from the lobbyists who fund the parties and start to change our relationship to the Arab world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Talks are not the answer, and were never the answer. The truth is the operation was flawed from the start. The West never had the firepower or the stomach to defeat the Taliban by military means - in effect it's always acted as a sort of half-baked but heavily-armed police force. When we leave there will be carnage and chaos and the country will return to the Dark Ages where apparently it belongs.


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