36,000 Taliban fighters operational in Afghanistan: General Barrons

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Kabul, Mar. 3 (ANI): A US general in charge of negotiating with the Afghan Taliban has estimated that there are nearly 36,000 insurgents in Afghanistan.

"There are probably 900 in the leadership, counting very junior to very senior, and there are between 25,000 and 36,000 people who would call themselves fighters," The Times quoted Major-General Richard Barrons, as saying.

"Some are ideological full-time jihadis, some are linked to the insurgency for localised reasons, local grievances; some because it's a way to make a living; some because they like to fight; some because their communities are hedging their bets between the Government and the insurgency," he added.

Pointing out that finding jobs for insurgents was the key to ending the Afghanistan war, General Barrons said that the Karzai Government had done little to earn the trust of its people, while the Taleban had in some cases provided better basic governance.

"People have found the local representatives predatory, corrupt and incapable of improving their lives," he said.

Instead of simply fighting the Taliban, General Barrons runs a NATO "reintegration cell" trying to understand what motivates the militants to fight and using that information to help Afghan officials to tempt them to swap sides.

The incentives for peace is expected to cost about 1 billion dollars over the next five years, and it includes jobs, money, training and sustainable development.

Despite 17 billion dollars spent on aid since 2001, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries on earth, with 850 children under 5 dying every day, according to Save the Children. Literacy and unemployment run at roughly 30 per cent. (ANI)

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