Taliban say Obama's call on moderates "illogical"

KABUL Tue Mar 10, 2009 1:03pm IST

U.S. President Barack Obama exchanges salutes with a Marine as he prepares to board Air Force One at Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS), North Carolina, in this February 27, 2009 file photo.    REUTERS/Jim Young/Files

U.S. President Barack Obama exchanges salutes with a Marine as he prepares to board Air Force One at Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS), North Carolina, in this February 27, 2009 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young/Files

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KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's Taliban on Tuesday turned down as illogical U.S. President Barack Obama's bid to reach out to moderate elements of the insurgents, saying the exit of foreign troops was the only solution for ending the war.

Obama, in an interview with the New York Times, expressed an openness to adapting tactics in Afghanistan that had been used in Iraq to reach out to moderate elements there.

"This does not require any response or reaction for this is illogical," Qari Mohammad Yousuf, a purported spokesman for the insurgent group, told Reuters when asked if its top leader Mullah Mohammad Omar would make any comment about Obama's proposal.

"The Taliban are united, have one leader, one aim, one policy...I do not know why they are talking about moderate Taliban and what it means?"

"If it means those who are not fighting and are sitting in their homes, then talking to them is meaningless. This really is surprising the Taliban."

In Iraq, the use of Sunni Muslim community leaders to employ their people to patrol their neighbourhoods has been credited as one of the main reasons behind sharp falls in violence.

Obama did point out that compared to Iraq, the situation was more complex in Afghanistan, where nearly 70,000 foreign troops, 38,000 of them American, are due to be joined in coming months by another 17,000 U.S. soldiers.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has been leading Afghanistan since U.S.-led troops overthrew the Taliban in an invasion in 2001, welcomed Obama's proposal.

The number of foreign troops in Afghanistan has risen steadily since Taliban's ouster after they refused to hand over al Qaeda leaders responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

So has the level of Taliban attacks against the government and foreign forces, prompting Obama to term Afghanistan as a top foreign policy priority for his new administration.

Some Western politicians and military officers now say the war cannot be won by military means alone and a solution will have to involve some form of reconciliation.

Yousuf said expulsion of foreign troops was the only solution for Afghanistan's spiraling violence.

"Afghans know better how to decide about their destiny," he replied when asked if the Taliban were willing to hold talks with Karzai's government should and when the troops leave.

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