- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Obama administration’s efforts to engage the Taliban in peace talks and its “fixation” on a 2014 deadline to withdraw all combat troops from Afghanistan have been “strategically debilitating” and signal that the U.S. has “lost the will for this fight,” Sen. John McCain said Wednesday.

“It sends the signal to everyone in Afghanistan and the region … [that] we are hell-bent on leaving Afghanistan regardless of conditions on the ground,” Mr. McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

“None of this may be true, but I can assure you that it is the perception in Afghanistan and the region,” he added. “And perception is reality.”

Mr. McCain said the Taliban has no incentive to make peace as long as they think that the U.S. is leaving Afghanistan.

The Taliban announced last month that it was suspending peace talks with the U.S.

The militants so far have only talked about opening an office in Qatar and the release of five of its top operatives from the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“Reconciliation with the Taliban … will happen when we have broken their will to keep fighting,” Mr. McCain said.

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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