Petraeus: Afghans Call Shots in Taliban Talks

The war in Afghanistan has gone on for 3,240 days. With each day, the casualties mount. On Friday, NATO reported the deaths of three coalition soldiers, including an American.

Special Section: Afghanistan | The Road Ahead

In Helmand Province, at least seven Afghan road-construction workers were shot to death by Taliban insurgents.

President Obama has beefed up troop strength here to 93,000 to try to defeat the Taliban, but many foreign policy experts believe the only way to end the war is by negotiating with the very insurgency Afghan and coalition forces are trying to crush. It's called reconciliation.

"CBS Evening News" Anchor Katie Couric asked the top commander here, U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, if the United States would be willing to play a role in that process.

"We're not the ones calling the shots," said Petraeus. "At the end of the day those who will determine whether reconciliation goes forward or not are those who lead the Afghan government, and that is why it is appropriate that they lead these efforts, perhaps facilitated in some cases, supported in some cases, by the United States. But those are going to remain behind the scenes, and that's where they should remain. President (Hamid) Karzai has established the Afghan government's redlines if you will. They must respect the constitution, lay down weapons, cut off ties with al Qaeda and essentially be willing to be productive members of society."

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"So, you have no moral qualms about bringing the Taliban, even high-ranking members of the Taliban, into the process?" Couric asked.

"It's not about my moral qualms," said Petraeus. "It's about the Afghanistan leadership, which has established the redlines, and I think that you have to have at least an open mind about this because this is historically the way counterinsurgency efforts ultimately have been concluded."

"So, what will the Afghan and the U.S. have to offer the Taliban in negotiations?" Couric asked.

"They can live is number one," said Petraeus. "Number two, perhaps they can return to their country of origin. A lot of them are tired of, again, living a life on the run, being pursued, of living outside the country and so forth, and so, I think that those are all fairly powerful incentives for them."

"So you think they'd be receptive to reconciliation?" Couric asked.

"Some," said Petraeus. "Again, I don't think there's an expectation that Mullah Omar is going to charter a plane to Kabul anytime soon to sit down and discuss the Taliban laying down weapons en masse. However, there are certainly leaders out there who we believe are willing to do that."

"Are they trustworthy?" Couric asked.

"Well, I think there is a past president who used to say, 'Trust but verify,'" said Petraeus. "So clearly there would have to be safeguards."

"In other words, if they don't adhere to the caveat, there will be hell to pay?

"Again, yes, is the answer," said Petraeus. "Of course."

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  • Katie Couric

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