UN's Afghan rep challenges Obama's surge, calls for talks with Taliban's Mullah Omar

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London, Feb.23 (ANI): Kai Eide, the United Nation's representative in Afghanistan has challenged US President Barack Obama's "carrot and stick" strategy of a military surge while offering jobs, retraining, resettlement and protection to Taliban figures who break away from Mullah Omar's insurgency, and demanded instead that talks be held with Omar.

Eide, who will demit office next month, said Obama's strategy could actually strengthen the insurgency, as the West has underestimated the number of Taliban fighters driven by conviction rather than simply money.

He warned that attempting to bribe them may actually backfire.

"Often, such motivation stems from a conviction that the [Afghan] government is corrupt and unable to provide law and order combined with a sense of foreign invasion - not only in military terms, but in terms of disrespect for Afghanistan's culture, values and religion," he told the Daily Telegraph.

The "Reintegration Trust Fund" announced at last month's London Conference would only help if offered alongside talks with the Taliban's political leadership, he said.

The fund was not a "game changer" but could help if combined with talks with those ideologically driven Taliban and "if at some point that process involves the political structures of the insurgency. If you want relevant and sustainable results, you will have to involve relevant people with authority in an appropriate way," he said.

He has proposed a series of confidence-building measures to improve the atmosphere for talks, including a pledge by Mullah Omar's Taliban to stop attacking schools and hospitals, freeing some Taliban figures from the American Bagram Detention Centre and removing Taliban leaders from the UN's sanctions list.

Last month US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said there was no place in the reintegration scheme for Mullah Omar or his Taliban leadership.

Eide's challenge to the current strategy in Afghanistan follows dramatic developments in Pakistan in the last two weeks where the Taliban's military leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was captured in Karachi along with four other senior leaders.

The raids marked a new understanding on greater co-operation between Washington and the Taliban's former allies in Islamabad.

Michael Semple, a leading authority on the Taliban and a former European Union diplomat, welcomed Eide's comments but questioned whether the Karzai government was ready to talk about peace.

"Kai Eide's political process would specifically engage the Taliban who are committed to their movement and consider it a moral force. The political process to solve this conflict will have to be protected from spoilers on all sides including from those on the Kabul government side who so far have been content for the conflict to drag on, while the bulk of the military and fiscal burden is borne by the United States," he said. (ANI)

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