Obama in dilemma over reconciliation with Taliban

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Washington, Jan. 27 (ANI): After committing 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan, the Obama administration is facing a great dilemma over whether or not to extend an olive branch to Taliban fighters who have sheltered Osama bin Laden for so long.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai had said he wanted to reach out to the leaders of the Taliban, and the proposal, still in its early stages, could shape the next phase of America's engagement in Afghanistan, the New York Times reports.

On Thursday, donor countries, led by the United States, Britain and Japan, are likely to commit 100 million dollars a fund for reintegrating the low-end soldiers of the Afghan Taliban.

But the US is not very optimistic about dealing with the Taliban's high command, particularly its leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, and other "hard core" Taliban."

"It's our view that until the Taliban leadership sees a change in the momentum and begins to see that they are not going to win, the likelihood of significant reconciliation at senior levels is not terribly great," Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said last week in India.

The pros and cons of dealing with the Taliban will be discussed at the conference in London this week, where Karzai is scheduled to present his plan for lower-level reintegration.

Despite scepticism over how to deal with Mullah Omar, the administration's openness to reconciling with other Taliban leaders has grown since last year because of its recognition that the war is not going to be won purely on the battlefield.

"Today, people agree that part of the solution for Afghanistan is going to include an accommodation with the Taliban, even above low- and middle-level fighters," said an administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

But experts fear that the reconciliation process could embolden the Taliban.

"The more there is talk of negotiation, the more the Taliban view it as a sign of weakness. How do you make sure the reconciliation process does not embolden the Taliban to go on the march?" said Vanda Felbab-Brown, an expert on Afghanistan at the Brookings Institution.

So as of now, the Obama administration id likely to focus on lower-level street fighters, US military officials said. (ANI)

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