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 144.

    @ 140 Ppuj

    Copying and pasting your own posts does not make them popular or right. I repeat my earlier challenge - who do you want to do the "purging" on your behalf? How many do you want to die? How much hate do you want others to incite for you? Above all, why are you calling for other people to kill on your behalf?

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    War is now a politician's 'trophy dog!'

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    The biggest mistake was allowing any of them to survive the initial onslaught. As for talking to them, how can you negotiate with people who have no moral compass,
    no conception of human dignity or rights and certainly cannot be trusted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Shame so many of our Troops had to die because of Anti-Americanism

    America cannot monopolise victimization any more too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    You cannot reason with people like the Taliban.
    They are extremists who enforce their views upon the majority by wicked beatings, murder and depraved acts. Most of the normal people in areas dictated to by the Taliban do not want to see their daughters made to be second class objects raped by these depraved people calling themselves leaders
    Give people the ability to self rule by purging the Scum

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    Soldiers think differently to politicians, mind you so do most people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    It will be interesting to see what common ground can be found on holding talks with people that believe a girls should be shot in the head just for attending school and a 10yr old child should be beheaded for having contact with American troops.
    I foresee light-years of discussion yielding nothing.
    Smells like Vietnam, peace talks, bail out, collapse of country.

  • Comment number 137.

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

  • Comment number 136.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Like it's all our fault.

    If the Taliban could tolerate any system of Government other than their own we wouldn't have invaded, and nor would the Russians.

    Negotiation will be pointless unless the Taliban accept they won't be getting quite what they want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    They should have talked to them before invading, since if they had provided proof that al qaeda were behind the attacked of 9th Sept then they probably would have handed over them to an international court for a fair trial (not direct to US). Consequently far more people have since died as a direct result of the invasion than died in the on 9th Sep, and those people had just as much right to life

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    So if you bomb and kill us for long enough, eventually we'll talk to you and give you what you want?
    It worked for the IRA now we're surrendering to the Taliban.
    No wonder there is so much terrorism in the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Negotiation is always inevitable in conflicts and can prevent conflicts and terrorist events (such as 9/11 which resulted from the US not withdrawing from Saudi Arabia after the first Iraq war). The "West" is not interested in defeating terrorism, their actions cause terrorism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    The only way religious extremists will ever 'be brought to heel' is when ordinary people reject them. Opposing them from outside - Christian v Islam - will strengthen them.This may take generations, as it took us in the 'enlightened' West, but is the only way. Let the Taliban/Al Queida do their worst.They say about us 'they have the watches, but we have the time'.Truth is the opposite,

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Islam was founded on the misunderstanding of Muhammad. Prophets from Moses to Muhammad were finding solutions to degradations brought by religious faiths. Life can be improves only if we live in relationship with the System that saw life here. Those who realized the implications of it called the System the Truth. There is no place for living according to that. Enlightenment alone can reform Islam

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    I wonder if Gen Carter's interview with the Guardian represents his own thoughts and reflections, or represents NATO policy - the timing is interesting given that the PM was in Afghanistan yesterday "visiting the troops" and burbling about memorials. Kite flying for the Government perhaps. Very loyal of the General to take the political flak.

  • Comment number 128.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    Words are mightier than the sword, simply because the s, is in the right place. But serpents have been heard to speak also, so I have heard said.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Rambo V will see John Rambo returning to Afghanistan to kill the people he saved in Rambo III.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    The reason the Taliban were not invited to the negotiation table 10 years ago is because George W was still convinced there was no difference between the Taliban and Al Qaeda, his attitude was always that that regime didn't just permit Al Qaeda to operate on their soil but supported them while doing it. Only been through protracted interaction that our forces have learned they are two entities.


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