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Asia-pacific

Biden considers talks with moderate Taliban

Latest update : 2009-03-12

After talks with fellow NATO leaders in Brussels, US Vice-President Joe Biden told reporters it was "worth exploring" possible talks with Taliban moderates as part of a change of strategy in Afghanistan.

Watch Face Off: 'Should we talk to the Taliban?'

 

AFP - Talking with Taliban moderates in Afghanistan is a tactic "worth exploring," US Vice President Joe Biden said at NATO headquarters in Brussels Tuesday.
   
"It's worth exploring. The idea of what concessions would be made is well beyond the scope of my being able to answer," said Biden, who earlier held talks with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and alliance nations.
   
"I do think it's worth engaging and determining whether or not there are those who are willing to participate in a secure and stable Afghan state," he added.
   
Biden told reporters that while the US-led forces are not winning the war in Afghanistan, neither is the conflict lost.
   
"We are not now winning the war but the war is far from lost," he said.
   
Earlier he warned that Afghanistan posed a terrorist threat to all NATO countries as he sought help for a new strategy to confront the Taliban insurgency.
   
President Barack Obama has ordered 17,000 extra US troops to Afghanistan and a top-to-bottom review of his war policy, shifting the focus from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the fight against Islamic militants.
   
Biden was seeking ideas and concrete help for the broad new regional plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan that could be launched at the summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in early April.
   
"The deteriorating situation in the region poses a security threat from our perspective not just to the United States but to every single nation around this table," Biden told a top NATO council of the alliance's 26 member states.
   
The September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the bombings in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005 were planned "from the very same mountains" along the Afghan-Pakistan border, he said.
   
"This is not a US-centric view," Biden said. "A terrorist attack in Europe is viewed as an attack on us."
   
Britain, France and Germany have ruled out sending more frontline troops to Afghanistan but the Europeans, who have shown much enthusiasm for Obama's fresh approach, have kept an open mind about other ways of helping.
   
European officials have suggested they could take part in police training, civilian reconstruction and offer assistance during elections in Afghanistan set for August.
   
Germany has offered to send 600 extra troops to beef up security during the vote.
   
"We are here to consult, we are here to listen. We are here to come up with a joint common strategy," Biden told the North Atlantic Council, the alliance's top decision-making body.
   
"Once that is arrived at, what the United States expects is that everyone keeps whatever commitment were made in arriving at that joint strategy. It's as simple and straightforward as that."
   
Nearly 70,000 foreign troops under NATO and US command have been fighting a Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan since late 2001.
   
The US vice president was to head into a working lunch with EU officials including Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.
   
"EU countries in principle do not think they will increase the number of their troops which they want to deploy in Afghanistan," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told Spanish radio.
   
"The situation in Afghanistan is not going to be resolved only militarily. There are many things that can be done in Afghanistan that are not exclusively increasing the number of troops."

Date created : 2009-03-10

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