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Debate over reconciliation with the Taliban

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Debate over reconciliation with the Taliban
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Can the peace scheme advocated by Afghan president Hamid Karzai to attract Taliban fighters back to normal life be taken seriously? Up until now the extremists in Afghanistan have refused to negotiate. Karzai remains confident the lure of money and jobs financed through an international trust fund can work. Earlier this week in Istanbul, Karzai outlined his bold approach.

“Those Taliban who are not part of al-Qaeda or other terrorist networks are welcome to come back to their country, lay down arms and resume life under the constitution of Afghanistan,” President Karzai said.

The idea to persuade Taliban fighters to come back into the fold is not a novel one. Last March, during a conference on Afghanistan in the Hague, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke about peace through reintergration.

“We must also support the efforts by the government of Afghanistan to separate the extremists of al-Qaeda and the Taliban from those who joined their ranks not out of conviction but out of desperation,” Clinton said.

Any talking to the Taliban would go hand in hand with the military strategy. NATO’s top commander, US General Stanley McChrystal, will soon have an extra 37,000 troops to count on to secure the highly unstable South of the country. The allies hope the surge will bear fruit, forcing the extremists to the negotiating table. Many ordinary Afghans, however, are tired of waiting for security to come.

“We all live under the tent in this freezing weather. People have died here. Our demand from this conference is to build us houses and bring security in our country,” one displaced man said.

In a temporary camp near to the capital Kabul, like so many others dotted around Afghanistan, the occupants simply want peace.