Talk to Taliban, says Miliband

Author: By David Hughes, Press Association

Mr Miliband said the insurgency was “divided”, with many of those fighting
against international forces doing so for “pragmatic” rather than
ideological reasons.

Speaking at Nato’s headquarters in Brussels, he said the Afghan authorities
should offer incentives to persuade insurgents to switch sides.

He also called for the UK’s Nato allies to take up a greater share of the
military burden in Afghanistan.

Mr Miliband said the insurgents were being squeezed by military operations
either side of the Durand Line separating Afghanistan from Pakistan.

“From this position, we need to help the Afghan government exploit the
opportunity, with a more coherent effort to fragment the various elements of
the insurgency, and turn those who can be reconciled to live within the
Afghan Constitution.

“The basis for both reintegration and reconciliation is a starker choice:
bigger incentives to switch sides and stay out of trouble, alongside tougher
action against those who refuse.

“The Afghan government needs effective grass-roots initiatives to offer an
alternative to fight or flight for the foot soldiers of the insurgency.

“Essentially this means a clear route for former insurgents to return to their
villages and go back to farming the land, or a role for some of them within
the legitimate Afghan security forces.”

With UK forces paying a heavy price during operations this month, Mr Miliband
said: “In recent weeks in Britain the debate about Afghanistan has centred
on military tactics and military operations.

“People in Britain know why we all committed to this mission.

“They want to know that all of the members of our Alliance are ready to give
it the priority and commitment that it deserves.

“Burden sharing is a founding principle of the Alliance … It needs to be
honoured in practice as well as in theory by all of us.”

The Ministry of Defence is today expected to name a soldier who died while on
a vehicle patrol in Lashkar Gah District, central Helmand Province, on
Saturday morning.

He was from the 40th Regiment Royal Artillery, and the 20th British serviceman
to die in Afghanistan this month.

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