Hammer Taliban first, says ex-envoy

Hill panel eyes reconciliation

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The U.S.-led coalition force in Afghanistan first must escalate its counterinsurgency operations and only then begin reconciliation efforts with leaders of the militancy, veterans of the Iraq campaign told members of Congress on Tuesday.

Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Pakistan, said reconciliation and reintegration will become possible only when insurgents are no longer sure they are winning.

Advocating a tougher military approach, he said, “You don’t get cracks and fissures in a rock until you bring a hammer down on it.”

The U.S. military appears to be preparing for such a strategy.

A Western official based in Afghanistan, discussing the situation there on the condition of anonymity, said “fireworks” were expected soon in the southern province of Kandahar, where U.S.-led troops have been engaged in what he described as “mopping-up operations” against the Taliban.

While the Obama administration has advocated reintegration efforts with lower members of the insurgency in Afghanistan, broader reconciliation efforts, which would involve talks with terrorist leaders, have not received much support.

The congressional hearing on Tuesday was the first dedicated to reconciliation.

David Kilcullen, who served as a senior counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David H. Petraeus when the general headed the coalition force in Iraq, emphasized the need for a “big tactical hit” on the Taliban. (Gen. Petraeus is currently the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.)

“We need to do some very significant damage to the Quetta Shura, Haqqani Network … We need to kill a lot of Taliban … You have to do that kind of damage to a terrorist organization before it becomes ready to talk,” Mr. Kilcullen said.

He ruled out negotiating with the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network, saying the terrorist group, which has inflicted a large number of casualties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, is not acting on its own initiative.

“If you negotiate with the organ grinder’s monkey, you may as well negotiate with the organ grinder himself,” Mr. Kilcullen said.

Pressed by Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to explain, he said there was “considerable collusion” between the Haqqani Network and “elements within some parts of the national security establishment in Pakistan.”

This week, leaked documents revealed such links between Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, has said the documents do not accurately reflect the situation on the ground.

Zainab Salbi, founder and CEO of Women for Women International, told lawmakers the Afghan government should close the door to discussions with the Haqqani Network, because of the atrocities it has committed. She advocated talking to more moderate members of the Taliban.

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About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.


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