Just days after declaring the Taliban “insidious” and a “cancer” on Afghanistan that needs to be eliminated, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates insisted that the group was part of the “political fabric” of Afghanistan that needed to be willing to take a legitimate role going forward.
The comments came as Afghan President Hamid Karzai is looking for international funding for a plan to pay Taliban fighters in return for them switching sides and joining the NATO-backed government.
The comments suggest that the Obama Administration doesn’t want to undermine Karzai’s already shaky government by looking like they oppose the president’s scheme. Secretary Gates added that the Taliban needed to be “ready to help build a 21st-century Afghanistan.”
Though Gates insisted earlier this week that the Taliban were “unlikely” to accept any reconciliation plan so long as the momentum continues to be in their favor, some analysts suggest that the Taliban might prefer to negotiate now, from its strongest position since the 2001 US invasion, but that such a move would require the help of Pakistan’s military.