In his first interview since taking over as commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus talked about his strategy on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday with less than a year before the withdrawal of the first American troops is scheduled to commence.
Asked what was needed to win the war in Afghanistan, one of the things Petraeus mentioned was the need of reintegrating Taliban fighters in Afghan society. This is possible, he believes, especially with the “five dollar a day Taliban,” men fighting for the Taliban for a price, as well as with insurgents who are beginning to realize that the Taliban’s leadership appear to be leading from the rear.
According to General Petraeus, the Taliban’s leaders largely send messages and leave everyone else at the broken end of the bottle, inflicting the most civilian casualties in this war. He added that the mission is still to win over the hearts and minds of the people in order to bring an end to the conflict.
When asked what failure or success would mean to Afghanistan the general stated that while success means economic and national growth for the country, failure could affect the entire region, with civil war breaking out in Afghanistan and surrounding nations picking their sides, aiding the efforts of those prolonging the fighting and suffering.
Interestingly, Petraeus said that while Iran has no desire to see Americans gaining an easy victory in Afghanistan, they don’t like the Taliban emerging victorious either, despite the small amounts of funding and training which Tehran has offered them. The Iranians see the Taliban as too conservative in their views while a victory for them could undermine the stability of their own regime.
On the rather tricky subject of meeting with Taliban leaders in order to broker a peace agreement, Petraeus said that it was a lot like it was back in Iraq. They asked, “Were we willing to meet with people who had our blood on their hands?” The answer, said Petraeus, was yes. This may come as a somewhat disheartening response to many after the recent Time magazine article about Afghan women and their suffering under what’s left of the Taliban. But meeting with the Taliban is a reality of the war, and it may well be the price of peace.