by Tony Cross
Article published on the 2009-03-31 Latest update 2009-04-01 09:42 TU
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at a news briefing at the World Forum Conference Centre in the Hague March 31, 2009.
Afghan government representatives at Tuesday's international conference at the Hague endorsed the US government's plan to win over fighters from the Islamist insurgency. But they seemed unclear as to whether potential defectors were "good Taliban". US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealed that there had been "unplanned" contact between special envoy Richard Holbrooke and the Iranian delegation during the conference.
Clean up corruption and hold free and fair presidential elections in August wers the principal messages to Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government at Tuesday’s international conference on Afghanistan.
And most speakers backed US President Barack Obama’s plan to try and win defectors from the Taliban insurgency, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claiming that a majority of the movement’s fighters were motivated by desperation, not ideology.
The Afghan government seems enthusiastic about the idea.
Presidential spokesperson Humayun Hamidzada declared it "probably the most significant outcome" of the conference.
"We see an international consensus emerging on the question of finding a political solution for the problem in Afghanistan," he told reporters. "Our friends in the US and our friends in other countries have recognised the importance of speaking with all those Afghan moderate Taliban who are willing to lay down their arms, renounce violence and accept the Afghan constitution."
Foreign Minister Rangun Dadfar Sepanta, backed the idea too, but he denied that either that either he or the President have ever said that there are "good or bad Taliban". It is the government’s "responsibility" to help fighters "come back to the society of Afghanistan" if they accept its conditions, he said.
"I’m a social worker and I see hundreds of these people," said Mohammad Naeem Salimee, an observer for Acbar, a coalition of Afghan NGOs. He agreed with Clinton that many Taliban fighters are not ideologically committed to the movement.
But he conceded that the defectors would not be committed to the western view of the role of Islam and the status of women, leaving open the question of what sort of ideology they would find acceptable.
As the conference drew to a close, Clinton revealed that there had been "unplanned" but "cordial" contact between the US’s special envoy for the region, Richard Holbrooke, and the Iranian delegation. She said that the Iranians raised some "clear ideas", which could be pursued, signalling a further thaw between Washington and Tehran, who have not had diplomatic relations since 1979.
2009-04-01 09:42 TU
2009-04-01 08:21 TU