Time to talk with the Taliban?

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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