Singapore: Military pressure on the
Taliban could lead to "real opportunities" for peace talks
with leaders of the Afghan insurgency within a year, outgoing
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Saturday.
"My own view is that the political opportunities will
flow from military pressure," Gates said at a security
conference in Singapore as part of a final tour before
stepping down later this month.
"The possibility of some kind of political talks and
reconciliation might be substantive enough to offer some hope
of progress," said the Pentagon chief.
But he stressed that for the Taliban to have any
political role in the war-torn country, the insurgents must
accept that they will not win the military campaign against
the United States and its allies.
The Taliban must also cut ties with al Qaeda and
surrender all their arms if they are to have any political say
in the future of the country, he added.
"I think there is a generally accepted view that
primarily all conflicts of this kind eventually come to a
close with some kind of a political settlement," Gates said.
"But the reality is, in my view, that the prospects
for a political settlement do not become real until the
Taliban and the other adversaries, the Afghan adversaries,
begin to conclude they cannot win militarily."
He said US-led forces had rolled back the Taliban out
of its bastions in the south and there was mounting evidence
that the insurgents were suffering setbacks on the
"If we can sustain those successes, if we can further
expand the security bubble... perhaps this winter, the
possibility of some kind of political talks, or
reconciliation, might be substantive enough to offer some hope
of progress," Gates said.