NATO official says ’significant leaders’ of Afghan insurgency are ‘weary of the fight’

By Robert Burns, AP
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

NATO official cautious about Afghan reconciliation

WASHINGTON — NATO’s top civilian representative in Afghanistan said Tuesday that “significant leaders” of the insurgency seem interested in striking a political deal with the government.

Britain’s Mark Sedwill told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that it would be a mistake to think that reconciliation could be completed quickly. And he cautioned against making too much of recent signs of interest among some Taliban leaders in possible negotiations with the government.

But he said some senior leaders of the insurgency — whom he did not identify — have accepted political outreach from the Afghan government.

“There are significant leaders who seem to be weary of the fight and seem to be willing to contemplate a future within the mainstream” of the Afghanistan political process, Sedwill said. “What that will amount to is very difficult to say at this stage.”

He said the process of high-level reconciliation is still at an “embryonic” stage, with no “real negotiation” yet under way.

“There are some senior members of the insurgency who are genuinely seen reaching out — or accepting, actually, the outreach from the Afghan government — who are seeking a way to reconcile,” Sedwill said.

President Hamid Karzai has said he will talk to insurgents who renounce violence, sever ties to terrorists and embrace the Afghan constitution. Publicly, the Taliban have insisted they won’t negotiate until foreign troops leave the country, yet there are indications that backdoor discussions have occurred.

In Kabul on Tuesday, the Afghan government set up a 70-member peace council that formalizes efforts already under way to reconcile with top Taliban leaders and lure insurgent foot soldiers off the battlefield.

Sedwill said he was visiting Washington as part of preparations for a NATO summit meeting in Lisbon in November at which allied leaders are to consider the way ahead in Afghanistan.

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