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US, NATO plan to persuade Taliban leaders to switch loyalties

Last Updated: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 - 09:05

Washington: Adopting the `sons of Iraq` strategy, the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan have initiated a plan to persuade middle and low level Taliban commanders to switch loyalties, a top American military leader has said.

The strategy called `sons of Iraq` was first adopted by the British forces in Baghdad where many Iraqi insurgents were persuaded to join self-defence militias.

A similar kind of program had worked in Iraq and the US commanders believe that it would yield desired results in Afghanistan too, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told US law makers.
"There is a British general by the name of Graham Lamb who did this in Iraq and who is now working for General McChrystal and has initiated putting in place a program to
focus on mid-level and lower-level fighters who would like to turn themselves in and do so in a way, they are both protected and that they have a future, so, in that regard, similar to Sons of Iraq," Mullen said.

The programme would involve Afghan leaders initially. "We`re really at the beginning of right now. So we`re not very far down that road," Mullen said in response to a question at
a Congressional hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In response to a question, Mullen said: "Under no circumstances can we be seen as an occupier. I mean, we know we`re not; that`s who we are. We`ve never been. We haven`t
done it anywhere. But that message has got to be understood by the Afghan people."

The US and NATO Commander in Afghanistan General Stan McChrystal said it very well not too long after he got there.

"He was much less concerned about footprint, although he has a concern, than he is about what are you doing with it," Mullen said.

"We were in too many cantonments. We were not integrated with them; we weren`t living with them. And the message was one of occupation on the part of many," he said.

He said that Afghan people don`t like the Taliban to return to power but they`ve still got questions about whether the US is staying long-term -- not just the combat side of
this -- but whether the United States is staying long-term and going to be with them.

"And before, we left them -- and they know that. So it`s really, I think, what you`re doing with the forces that are there, as opposed to the size of the footprint," he noted.

Bureau Report

First Published: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 - 09:05

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