70 percent of Taliban fighting only for money in Afghanistan: Biden

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Brussels (Belgium), Mar.11 (ANI): United States Vice President Joe Biden has claimed that at least 70 percent of Taliban guerrillas in Afghanistan are mercenaries fighting only for money.

He said that these elements could be persuaded to lay down their arms.

Stepping up U.S. calls for outreach to "moderate" elements of the insurgency, The News and the Washington Times both quoted as saying that he was in favour of applying the same tactics used by American troops in Iraq's Anbar province.

There, radical Sunni Muslims were co-opted by American financial support. This, he said, could work in Afghanistan as part of President Barack Obama's strategy for winning the war raging since 2001.

"Five percent of the Taliban is incorrigible, not susceptible to anything other than being defeated," Biden told a press conference at North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Brussels.

"Another 25 percent or so are not quite sure, in my view, of the intensity of their commitment to the insurgency. Roughly 70 percent are involved because of the money," he added.

"We are not now winning the war, but the war is far from lost," Biden said.

Biden was in Belgium to discuss Afghanistan with NATO officials in advance of next month's summit.

He said that he did not know what kind of concessions Taliban members might be willing to make, but added that the Afghan government would have to initiate and approve of any such talks.

"But I do think it is worth engaging and determining whether or not there are those who are willing to participate in a secure and stable Afghan state," Biden said.

President Obama on Friday left open the door to negotiating with elements of the Taliban as part of a counter-insurgency strategy first conceived and carried out in Iraq by General David Petraeus, the former commander of military forces in Iraq who now oversees military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan as commander of CENTCOM.

The U.S. military action in Afghanistan, late in 2001, unseated the Taliban from power after President Bush said they had given Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda the safe haven they needed to plot and carry out the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The Taliban are fundamentalist Muslims who espouse an extreme and strict interpretation of the Koran that includes a medieval system of justice and is highly repressive of women's rights.

The American vice president said that his talks with NATO allies were "essentially the beginning" of consultations with them over the way forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which he emphasized have to be thought of jointly. (ANI)

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