Fri, Oct 03, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Coalition leader in Afghanistan mulls enlisting tribes

AFP , WASHINGTON

The general who commands NATO forces in Afghanistan on Wednesday called for enlisting tribes to help pacify the country and did not rule out reconciliation with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

US General David McKiernan, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force, also said the coalition needs more troops for what he said is an increasingly “tough fight” in eastern and southern Afghanistan.

“And until we get to what I call a tipping point where the lead for security can be in the hands of the Afghan Army and the Afghan Police, there is going to be a need for the international community to provide military capabilities,” he told reporters.

McKiernan has asked for four more US combat brigades, support forces, helicopters and reconnaissance, intelligence and surveillance capabilities. McKiernan said that any reconciliation efforts should be led by the Afghan government, but that the military would support it.

Asked whether dealing with the man who harbored al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was beyond the pale, McKiernan said: “I think that’s a political decision that will ultimately be made by political leadership.”

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said on Tuesday that he has asked Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to arrange talks with the Taliban so that Omar and other militia leaders could return home in peace.

“Ultimately, the solution in Afghanistan is going to be a political solution not a military solution,” said McKiernan, who spoke to reporters at a Pentagon news conference.

“We’re not going to run out of bad guys there that want to do bad things in Afghanistan,” he said.

“So the idea that the government of Afghanistan will take on the idea of reconciliation, I think, is [an] approach and we’ll be there to provide support within our mandate,” he said.

His visit to Washington comes as the administration is conducting a wide-ranging strategy review prompted by rising insurgent violence in Afghanistan fueled from sanctuaries in neighboring Pakistan.

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