Military force alone unlikely to beat Taliban: US commander
* Japanese opposition rebuffs Germany’s appeal on Afghan mission
KABUL: Military force alone is unlikely to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan, a top US commander said Thursday, noting that most insurgencies end with a political solution.
Maj. Gen. Robert Cone, who is in charge of equipping and training Afghan security forces to take over from international troops, said the local units were making good progress, but declined to say when they would be strong enough to allow foreign forces to go home. Violence is soaring in Afghanistan despite years of counterinsurgency operations by international troops and millions of dollars spent in equipping the country’s army and police units.
Cone cautioned that military force alone would likely not be enough to beat the Taliban and other militants battling foreign and Afghan government troops. “You can say you defeated them in a single campaign ... but again given the complex nature of this environment, they might be back again the very next year,” he told a media conference in the capital Kabul. “I think the real issue is probably not a military solution in the long term.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai earlier this year said he had met with unspecified Taliban militants in an attempt to reach a political settlement, but did not elaborate on the extent of the contacts. Cone, who arrived in Afghanistan in July, said the “military will have a significant impact on the overall solution, but in reality most insurgencies are dealt with by political solution in the end.”
Hundreds of former members of the Taliban regime, including a sprinkling of former senior commanders and officials, have reconciled with the government since they were ousted from power in the US-led invasion in 2001. But current rebel leaders have apparently refused to hold talks, and over the past year, thousands more fighters have joined the insurgency, which this year alone has left more than 3,900 people dead, especially in southern and much of eastern Afghanistan. The exact number of insurgents is unclear.
Japan Opp rebuffs German appeal: Japan’s main opposition leader Thursday rebuffed an appeal by visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel to maintain its support for the “war on terror” in Afghanistan, which has been unpopular here. “You don’t have to follow the unilateral opinion of the United States,” main opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa told Merkel in a meeting, as quoted by Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, the opposition’s shadow foreign minister.
Merkel has called for as many countries to take part in the “war on terror” as possible. After meeting on Wednesday with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Merkel said that the international community must “never give in to the threat of terror.” “I am against the current ISAF deployment, although I would support a deployment clearly authorised by a decision of the United Nations,” Ozawa told her, according to Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi quoted Merkel as telling him: “If Japan is to play a greater role in the international community, it has to take greater responsibility.” ap