'Stepped-up military operations only way to bring Afghan Taliban to negotiating table'

Kabul, Nov 17 (ANI): NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said that stepped-up military operations on the ground might be the only way to bring Afghan insurgents to the negotiating table.

Leaders of the alliance are scheduled to meet in Lisbon on Friday for a two-day summit that is expected to formally endorse the goal of handing off responsibility for security to the Afghan government, with the aim of completing the transfer by 2014, the Globe and Mail reports.

However Rasmussen believes that setting a fixed deadline would only play into the hands of the Taliban on the battlefield.

If the Taliban can be drawn into a reconciliation process, he said, "It's worthwhile to give it a chance. I consider it of the utmost importance to continue our military operations because it is increasing the military pressure on the Taliban and its leadership that has stimulated reconciliation talks."

Although Afghan President Hamid Karzai has claimed that his government is trying to convince some Taliban commanders about a possible political settlement, neither European diplomats nor officials have much confidence in recent reports that contacts are under way.

"Whatever is going on, and nobody really believes there is much going on, it doesn't really amount to a coherent political engagement," said a Western diplomat in London.

Meanwhile, the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, who is believed to be based in Pakistan has tagged the Afghan government as the corrupt "puppet" of foreign occupiers and added reports that the Taliban might negotiate with Karzai were "rumours ... to throw dust in the eyes of the people."

He also accused the Afghan government and the NATO mission of turning the country toward decadence, in what he called "aberrations of the youth and cultural and social deviation in the name of democracy." (ANI)

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