New Zealand's military chief wants to negotiate with the Taliban. It's a controversial approach that raises the classic question of whether we talk with terrorists... and dozens of other questions alongside

In May 2008, then-President George W Bush stood before the Israeli Knesset and said, "Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along."

Barack Obama, then in the midst of the presidential campaign, took the line as a "political attack" on him and insisted he had "never supported engagement with terrorists". Turns out Bush was right, however, as last year Obama announced that despite the "complex" issues at play in Afghanistan, he was open to opportunities for dialogue with the Taliban.

Obama's controversial suggested new strategy set off plenty of debate and derision of the "we never negotiate with terrorists" variety, which continues today. So it was intriguing to learn this past weekend that New Zealand's own military boss was firmly in the Obama camp.

Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae told Q+A on Anzac Day that he wanted the international forces in Afghanistan to negotiate with the Taliban.

"To my mind, speaking to the Taliban is important, I think it's part of the reconciliation process that is necessary and indeed, you know, absolutely required n Afghanistan."

If the New Zealand media paid any attention to significant world affairs and, you know, wars that we're fighting now as opposed to the wars that were won and lost in previous generations, that comment would have been on every front page on Monday morning. Alas, it's at risk of disappearing without prompting any public discussion, lost in the mist of remembrance that hangs around Anzac Day.


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Comments (2)

by stuart munro on April 28, 2010
stuart munro

"Wasn't ridding Afghanistan of such laws one of the reasons for invading the country in the first place?"

I don't believe so. The ostensible casus belli was the pursuit and capture of Osama Bin Laden & his pterrorist academy. Half of this has been done. The plight of Afghan women is an example of mission creep.

A foreign presence is unpalatable enough for Afghans without intruding into every home. The fate of Afghan women is in some cases terrible, but no more so than that of the central African victims of the Lord's Resistence Army, South American or former Soviet trafficked women, none of which has attracted significan international intervention.

To influence customs like women's rights in Afghanistan, America needs to establish itself as a credible authority, either in terms of force, or moral authority. Having failed to cement it's control in about ten years, and having employed 'dishonorable' practices in local terms this effort is doomed, and the sooner we are out of it the better.

Since the Taliban will be the de facto government once US forces withdraw, we should indeed negotiate with them, if we are foolish enough to remain in their country.

by tussock on April 28, 2010

"Bush was right" is only true if one considers the Taliban as a whole, who are the former and in-waiting government of Afghanistan, to be "terrorists". That seems to be stretching things a bit, no?

Negotiating with a deeply religous and militant group, sure. If only there was someone more like, say, the US government to negotiate with, who are also deeply religous and militant, but have white skin and speak english.


It is quite a thing for our head army dude to have hinted at the future direction of the occupation, and it would be nice to hear a bit more about it now and then, but that's what places like this are for, eh.

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