Taleban reconciliation 'possible'  By Frank Gardner 
 BBC Security Correspondent 

Reconciliation with the Taleban is possible, says Gulab Mangal, the governor of 
Afghanistan's troubled Helmand province.  
But he said it was not possible with the extreme members, who had links to 
international terrorism. 
Governor Mangal told the BBC the keys to defeating the Afghan insurgency were 
reconciliation and better governance. 
Also, he said, the elimination of the Taleban's sanctuaries that straddle the 
Afghan-Pakistan border. 
The energetic and reform-minded Governor Mangal is much favoured by
Britain, which has over 8,000 troops deployed to Afghanistan. 
On a day when news broke of three more British deaths
in Helmand province, bringing the total killed since 2001 to 148, he
said that coalition soldiers fighting the Taleban were doing it "for
the sake of the world's humanity". 
In a reference to al-Qaeda-linked insurgents, he said if Helmand province was 
not secure, then London would not be either. 
“ We have proof that the Taleban are forcing farmers to plant opium poppies and 
punishing them if they refuse  ” 
Governor Mangal 
He denied recent reports that the Taleban were in control of more than
half of his province and insisted that Nato and Afghan security forces
were jointly inflicting heavy losses on the Taleban and interrupting
the narcotics trade, in which he said they were heavily involved. 
"We have taken serious steps towards the narcotics problem," he told a news 
conference earlier. 
"Dozens of smugglers have been captured, many heroin facilities have
been destroyed and 41 tonnes of drugs have been confiscated. 
"The Taleban and drug dealers are working closely
together and we have proof that the Taleban are forcing farmers to
plant opium poppies and punishing them if they refuse," he said. 
"The Taleban are even escorting drugs convoys around
the country and out of it for export. But this year [because of our
efforts] you will see a decrease in poppy production." 
'Bailing out'  
But Governor Mangal did not deny that his government was having to
confront serious problems in Helmand, a province which continues to see
some of Afghanistan's fiercest fighting. 
He divided the Taleban into three categories, only two of which he said could 
be negotiated with. 
The first was those fighters with international links like al-Qaeda,
and these the Afghan government would never reconcile with. 
The second group, he said, was nationalist jihadis
fighting primarily to expel foreign forces from their land, and these
he believed could eventually be brought into the government. 
The third group listed by Governor Mangal was comprised
of those Afghans who had joined the insurgency for personal reasons,
such as resentment of weak government or abuse at the hands of the
authorities; these too, he believed could be reconciled with. 
As to how long the international coalition would need to stay in Afghanistan, 
Governor Mangal would not be drawn. 
But on one point he was clear: the insurgency, he said, could not be
defeated unless the Taleban's sanctuaries were eliminated. 
He likened this to bailing water out of a boat at sea. 
"If there is a hole in the boat and the water is coming in and we are
taking it out with a bucket," he said, "we will never be able to stop
the sea water coming in if we don't plug the hole." 
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/02/25 22:38:43 GMT


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