British army chief says it's time to talk with Taliban

27th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's army chief said Sunday that talks with the Taliban should begin "pretty soon" as part of the exit strategy for international forces in Afghanistan, adding that this was his "private view".

"If you look at any counter-insurgency campaign throughout history there's always been a point at which you start to negotiate with each other, probably through proxies in the first instance, and I don't know when that will happen," General David Richards, chief of the general staff, told BBC radio.

Stressing it was "purely a private view", he said: "I think there's no reason why we shouldn't be looking at that sort of thing pretty soon.

"But at the same time you have got to continue the work we are doing on both the military, governance and development perspectives to make sure that they (the Taliban) don't think that we are giving up.

"It's a concurrent process and both equally important."

Earlier this month, Afghans from across the political and social spectrum said at a landmark conference, the so-called peace jirga, that talking to the Taliban was the country's best, and possibly last, chance for peace.

In January, a UN official said former UN representative to Afghanistan Kai Eide met with Taliban militants in Dubai with the hope of holding peace talks, but the militants denied the meeting took place.

Britain has about 9,500 troops as part of an international coalition in Afghanistan, most of them battling Taliban insurgents in the south.

© 2010 AFP

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