Split Taliban from al Qaeda: Hillary Clinton

Hillary voiced hope that US-led military efforts would split the Taliban from al Qaeda in Afghan.

Last Updated: Feb 18, 2011, 23:38 PM IST

New York: Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton on Friday voiced hope that US-led military efforts would
split the Taliban from al Qaeda in Afghanistan, laying the
groundwork for a lasting political settlement.

In excerpts of a speech she will deliver at the Asia
Society in New York, Clinton reaffirmed US plans to start
reducing troops in July and complete the drawdown by the end
of 2014 as Afghans take charge of their war-torn country.

Clinton said the surge in US-led troops over the past
year was part of a strategy to "split the weakened Taliban off
from al Qaeda and reconcile those who will renounce violence
and accept the Afghan constitution."

The top US diplomat said that the Taliban faced a
similar choice as in 2001, when the United States attacked
Afghanistan and toppled the hardline Islamic regime for
hosting al Qaeda leaders who planned the September 11 attacks
on New York and Washington.

"Today, the escalating pressure of our military
campaign is sharpening a similar decision for the Taliban:
break ties with al Qaeda, give up your arms, and abide by the
Afghan constitution and you can rejoin Afghan society.

"Refuse and you will continue to face the consequences
of being tied to al Qaeda as an enemy of the international
community," Clinton said, according to excerpts of her
remarks.

"They cannot wait us out. They cannot defeat us. And
they cannot escape this choice."

The relationship between al Qaeda and the Taliban has
long been a source of contention within US policy circles.

After the September 11 attacks, president George W
Bush`s administration described the two groups as virtually
indistinguishable.

US troops, now led by General David Petraeus, have
focused on taking the fight to the Taliban.

But key civilian leaders under President Barack Obama
have put a focus on political reconciliation, arguing that
many rank-and-file Taliban are simply seeking a livelihood and
can be co-opted.

Clinton was delivering an inaugural lecture in memory
of hard-charging US diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who served as
Washington`s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan and was
a leading advocate for a political settlement.

Holbrooke, a former chair of the Asia Society, died
suddenly on December 13 of a torn aorta. He was 69.

PTI