Canadian Forces should talk to Taliban: senators
Published Wednesday, June 11, 2008 6:39PM EDT
Ottawa should allow Canadian Forces and government officials to talk to the Taliban when appropriate or the conflict in Afghanistan could carry on for a "very long time," a Senate committee concludes in a new report.
The Senate national security committee, headed by Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, says communications with the Taliban should only take place when specific progress can be made.
"We recognize clearly that the responsibility to negotiate with the Taliban rests with the government of Afghanistan... not with Canada and with the CF (Canadian Forces)," Kenny told reporters Wednesday.
"Having said that, we don't think we should give up on the opportunity to collect information or to get a better reading on where they are."
Currently, the Canadian government refuses to negotiate with the Taliban until the group renounces violence.
"Drawing lines in the sand is one of those child-rearing mechanisms that doesn't always work in the adult world of conflict resolution," says the report titled: "How Are We Doing in Afghanistan? Canadians Need to Know."
The report acknowledges that an offer by the Afghanistan government in 2007 to negotiate with the Taliban "does not appear to have diluted the Taliban's determination to use as many suicide bombers as necessary to regain power by force."
"On the other hand, Canada and its NATO allies may indeed be tougher and morally superior to the Taliban, but the Taliban clearly don't see it that way," says the report. "So the conflict in Afghanistan could go on for a very long time if there is no attempt to resolve the issue through diplomacy."
The committee says every effort needs to be made to win over moderate Taliban supporters.
Since 2004, some Taliban defectors have taken advantage of amnesty initiatives offered by the Afghan government.
Although Taliban leaders have consistently rejected the government's negotiation attempts, the senators feel there is still a place for diplomacy.
"Soldiers should be talking to all locals, including Taliban, finding out about their needs and using this to our advantage," says the report.
The discussions with the Taliban should only take place if communication encourages disarmament and/or ensures the security of development projects within the province, says the report.
The committee also takes aim at Defence Minister Peter MacKay who has maintained that Canada will not talk to the Taliban.
"That is what is known as drawing a line in the sand," says the report. "It sounds tough, and it sounds morally superior, but when the Government of Afghanistan has publicly offered to compromise with the Taliban, it doesn't sound all that realistic."