Women mourn the death of a family member after a truck exploded in Hyderabad, Pakistan. The truck, which was carrying chemicals, blew up after pressure built up in its storage tank. Eighteen people were killed. (AP)
New York, June 28: President Obama and the CIA director reacted with scepticism yesterday about the prospects for an Afghanistan peace deal pushed by Pakistan between the Afghan government and some Taliban militants.
While Obama said a political solution to the conflict was necessary and suggested elements of the Taliban insurgency could be part of negotiations, he said any such effort must be viewed with caution. The CIA director, Leon E. Panetta, was even more forceful in expressing his doubts.
We have seen no evidence that they are truly interested in reconciliation, where they would surrender their arms, where they would denounce al Qaida, where they would really try to become part of that society, Panetta said on ABCs This Week.
Acknowledging that the American-led counter-insurgency effort was facing unexpected difficulty, Panetta said that the Taliban and their allies had little motive to contemplate a power-sharing arrangement in Afghanistan.
Weve seen no evidence of that and very frankly, my view is that with regards to reconciliation, unless theyre convinced that the US is going to win and that theyre going to be defeated, I think its very difficult to proceed with a reconciliation thats going to be meaningful, he said.
Obama, speaking later after the Group of 20 meeting in Toronto, noted that as the Afghanistan war approached its 10th anniversary, it was the longest foreign war in American history, and that ultimately as was true in Iraq, so will be true in Afghanistan, we will have to have a political solution.
As for Pakistans effort to broker talks, Obama added: I think its too early to tell. I think we have to view these efforts with scepticism but also with openness. The Taliban is a blend of hard-core ideologues, tribal leaders, kids that basically sign up because its the best job available to them. Not all of them are going to be thinking the same way about the Afghan government, about the future of Afghanistan. And so were going to have to sort through how these talks take place.
The President avoided any direct comment on whether the Haqqani network, the Taliban element reportedly proposed by Pakistan as part of a deal, could become part of Afghanistans future leadership. But he said that conversations between the Afghan government and the Pakistani government, building trust between those two governments, are a useful step.
The comments yesterday were the administrations first public response to a report of Pakistans deal-brokering efforts last week in The New York Times.
Panetta and Obama spoke after a major shake-up in the American military leadership, in which the President dismissed his top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, replacing him with Gen. David H. Petraeus.
Obama said the American strategy in Afghanistan would not change, and the Senate Armed Services Committee scheduled a confirmation hearing for Gen Petraeus for tomorrow.