`Real opportunities` for talks with Taliban: Gates
Last Updated: Saturday, June 04, 2011, 16:43
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 battlefield.

"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.


First Published: Saturday, June 04, 2011, 16:43

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