General: ‘Use drones to kill’ the Taliban in Pakistan
A Predator drone campaign inside Pakistan seems unlikely.
Some Pakistani officials have pressed Washington to stop missile attacks in the tribal areas where al Qaeda and its allies are targeted. The Obama administration is engaged in behind-the-scenes peace talks to persuade the Taliban to join the Afghan government in Kabul.
As a good-faith gesture, it is discussing releasing Taliban leaders at Guantanamo into Afghan custody. Vice President Joseph R. Biden has declared: “Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That’s critical.”
“The Taliban has not, in my judgment, in any significant way changed their fundamental goal and objective, which is to take over Afghanistan and return to running that country,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have negotiation talks with them. I think we should. But we’ve got to be clear-eyed about it.”
Now is one of the war’s most pivotal times. U.S. troops are on a stepped-up schedule to end Taliban control in various villages and turn over security to the Afghan National Army. The bulk of American troops are scheduled to leave the country by the end of 2014.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta last week squeezed the timeline by saying U.S. troops would shift to an advisory role in mid-2013 instead of fighting alongside the Afghan army as planned.
A former Army vice chief, Gen. Keane is one of the nation’s most influential retired four-star generals. He worked in 2006 to persuade the George W. Bush administration to change strategy in Iraq and shift to a troop surge.
His latest trip was at the behest of U.S. Central Command. He told The Times that he first wanted to see whether 2011 gains made against the Taliban in its birthplace city of Kandahar and in Helmand province still stood.
“I went back in, and I wanted to verify the Taliban was not able during [the] 2011 fighting season, spring, summer and fall, to take back any of the territory we had taken from them or to regain any control or influence over the population,” he said. “The fact of the matter is there is not a single place where they have been able to do that.”
“The momentum has shifted to our favor,” Gen. Keane said, “much as it did in [the] south and southwest — in other words, Kandahar and Helmand province — as result of the surge forces. We are now able to generate the appropriate level of combat forces.”
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