Obama hopeful about peeling away some in Taliban

March 7, 2009 1:17:15 PM PST
President Barack Obama is holding out hope that U.S. forces in Afghanistan can peel away elements of the Taliban and possibly move them toward reconciliation. There may be such opportunities, but the situation in Afghanistan is more complicated than the challenges the American military faced in Iraq, Obama said in an interview with The New York Times posted Saturday on the newspaper's Website.

U.S. troops were able to persuade Sunni Muslim insurgents in Iraq to cooperate in some instances because they had been alienated by the tactics of al-Qaida terrorists.

Obama cautioned that Afghanistan is a less-governed region with a history of fierce independence among tribes, creating a tough set of circumstances for the United States to deal with.

The idea of cooperation with some in the Taliban has been talked about for many months by American military commanders including Gen. David Patraeus, head of U.S. Central Command.

"If you talk to Gen. Petraeus, I think he would argue that part of the success in Iraq involved reaching out to people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists, but who were willing to work with us," said Obama.

"There may be some comparable opportunities in Afghanistan and the Pakistani region, but the situation in Afghanistan is, if anything, more complex," Obama added.

Last month, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that Washington could accept a political agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban if the insurgents will lay down their arms and accept the government's terms.

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