Cana­dian en­voy cau­tions against woo­ing Tal­iban

William Cros­bie warns scheme to lure moderate mil­i­tants could make or­di­nary Afghans feel like Tal­iban are get­ting a bet­ter deal

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEVE RENNIE

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Canada’s top en­voy in Afghanistan warns woo­ing the Tal­iban could back­fire on coali­tion forces if peace­ful Afghans feel put out.

William Cros­bie, Canada’s am­bas­sador to Afghanistan, told re­porters Sun­day the ges­ture is point­less if oth­ers per­ceive the Tal­iban as be­ing favoured.

A scheme to lure moderate mil­i­tants from the in­sur­gency’s more rad­i­cal el­e­ments emerged from a re­cent in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence in Lon­don. The plan in­volves pay­ing out hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars to low-and mid-level Tal­ibs in the hopes they’ll de­fect. Jobs and vo­ca­tional train­ing to mil­i­tants who lay down their arms would also be of­fered un­der the scheme.

But Cros­bie cau­tioned against any move that makes or­di­nary Afghans feel like the Tal­iban are get­ting a bet­ter deal than they are.

“There’s no point de­vel­op­ing some kind of a fund to which for­mer in­sur­gents are el­i­gi­ble if we’re not equally pro­vid­ing sup­port to Afghans who are not part of the in­sur­gency now,” he said.

“So we don’t want to cre­ate the im­pres­sion that some­how if you’re a mem­ber of the in­sur­gency that you would be uniquely be able to ben­e­fit from the fund.”

“On the other hand, the fund can be used to com­ple­ment and sup­ple­ment the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment ef­forts that we have un­der­way al­ready.”

Other ef­forts to en­tice the Tal­iban to stop fight­ing gen­er­ally haven’t worked. Past in­cen­tives have tended to at­tract lowlevel fight­ers, many of whom even­tu­ally re­turn to the ranks of the in­sur­gency. It’s hoped this new Peace and Rein­te­gra­tion Trust Fund, to which in­ter­na­tional al­lies have pledged at least $500 mil­lion, will be enough to lure tens of thou­sands of in­sur­gents from the Tal­iban for good. Canada is tak­ing a wait-and-see ap­proach be­fore de­cid­ing whether to con­trib­ute to the fund.

“It’s not sim­ply a ques­tion of the fund. It’s the process for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion,” Cros­bie said.

“We are con­cerned that the process needs to be one that en­joys the sup­port of Afghan so­ci­ety. Some Afghans, in­clud­ing Afghan women, have ex­pressed con­cerns that rec­on­cil­i­a­tion should not be at the ex­pense of their rights, and of the gains that have been made with the new con­sti­tu­tion.

“We’ve also pointed out that the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process needs to set down clear lines for who would be el­i­gi­ble, and who would not.”

Afghanistan’s pres­i­dent shed some more light Sun­day on who ex­actly he is reach­ing out to.

Hamid Karzai, in his first news con­fer­ence since re­turn­ing from Lon­don, said he is will­ing to rec­on­cile with the Tal­iban’s lead­er­ship — as much as they are will­ing to — but that he will not em­brace any mem­ber of the ter­ror­ist net­work al-Qaida.

“We are try­ing our best to reach as high as pos­si­ble to bring peace and se­cu­rity,” Karzai said.

The Tal­iban have so far re­buffed the over­ture. A state­ment posted on a Tal­iban web­site last week said their fight­ers wouldn’t be swayed by fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives.

One of the Tal­iban’s de­mands be­fore any peace talks are held is for in­ter­na­tional troops to leave the coun­try. But Karzai called that an un­re­al­is­tic de­mand, say­ing coali­tion forces should re­main in Afghanistan un­til they rid the coun­try of al-Qaida and other ter­ror­ist threats.

Cana­dian Brig.-Gen. Daniel Me­nard, who heads coali­tion forces in Kandahar, had an­other take on rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with the in­sur­gents.

In an in­ter­view with The Cana­dian Press, he said the aim is to win over the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, not the in­sur­gency.

“I’m not try­ing to con­vince th­ese guys at all,” Me­nard said.

“But it’s their de­ci­sion. They can join (non-mil­i­tants), and live hap­pily. Or they can run. Be­cause you know what? That’s the only way they will live.”

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