Oct 6, 2008


Afghan war cannot be won militarily: U.N

By Jonathon Burch

The war in Afghanistan cannot be won militarily and success is only possible through political means including dialogue between all relevant parties, the United Nations' top official in the country said Monday.

His comments come after Britain's military commander in Afghanistan said the war could not be won and that the goal was to reduce the insurgency to a level where it was no longer a strategic threat and could be dealt with by the Afghan army.

Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith said if the Taliban were willing to talk, that might be "precisely the sort of progress" needed to end the insurgency.

"I've always said to those that talk about the military surge ... what we need most of all is a political surge, more political energy," Kai Eide, the U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, told a news conference in Kabul.

"We all know that we cannot win it militarily. It has to be won through political means. That means political engagement."

Eide said success depended on speaking with all sides in the conflict. "If you want to have relevant results, you must speak to those who are relevant. If you want to have results that matter, you must speak to those who matter," he said.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said: "We're not losing in Afghanistan, though there certainly is a recognition that there's more we could be doing there."

Asked about the possibility of negotiations with the Taliban, he replied: "This is not an element of our strategy. They have terrorized Afghan society for years."

The British ambassador to Kabul said a troop surge would only create more targets for the

Taliban. The comments were made to a French colleague who sent a telegram to Paris which was leaked and published in Le Canard Enchaine newspaper last week.

But the U.S. general commanding NATO forces said last month he needed three more brigades -- possibly around 15,000 troops -- on top of an extra 4,000 soldiers due to arrive in January.

The Afghan Defense Ministry says the cost of one foreign soldier in Afghanistan is equal to more than 60 Afghan troops.

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