New NATO Chief Favors Dialog With Moderate Taliban

The new head of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen says he is ready to open a dialog with moderate Taliban elements. His comments come amid reports that western soldiers were killed by insurgents in Afghanistan on Saturday.

Officials say three US troops and one French soldier were killed in separate attacks in Afghanistan on Saturday.

The Americans were killed in roadside bomb blasts in Kandahar province and the French soldier was killed in a gun battle north of the capital, Kabul.

The latest deaths in Afghanistan come after comments by the new head of NATO and former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen that he would be willing to talk with moderate sections of the Taliban to try and win the war there.

Barely hours after taking over the reins at NATO on Aug 1, Rasmussen told the Danish newspaper Politiken that he favors setting up negotiations with the radical Islamist Taliban in Afghanistan.


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However, he emphasized that such a dialogue was only possible with certain sections of the Taliban.

"There is certainly a hard core that is impossible to reach any deals with. They have only respect for military powers," he told the newspaper, "I certainly don't know why one should strike any agreements with those who are killing our soldiers."

But he said he would support dialogue with "moderate groups on the outer reaches of the Taliban." and added, "We obviously want to co-operate with those who want to contribute to a safer situation in Afghanistan and to create a framework for reconstruction and economic and social development."
Rising casualties and low morale

The conflict in Afghanistan is the largest military campaign in NATO's history. It's also the bloodiest, with over 1,000 Western troops killed since the alliance began operations in the region.

Many-NATO-countries-are-doubting-the-Afghan-mission-as-casulties-add-upThere are around 90,000 international troops under the NATO military alliance and US-led coalition command in Afghanistan, fighting alongside Afghan forces against the Taliban and other radical groups.

But the insurgency against the Western-backed Afghan government has steadily worsened despite a growing international presence.

Rasmussen will have to try to persuade reluctant European allies to commit more troops, money and other resources to Afghanistan at a time when opinion polls show public support for the war waning as casualties grow.

Many NATO members have begun to lose faith in the mission, and one by one they have begun making plans to pull out their troops.

The Dutch are expected to recall their soldiers from Afghanistan next year, and Canada is debating a 2011 pull-out. Meanwhile, Great Britain's role in the conflict has come under fire at home after 22 soldiers were killed during fighting last month alone.
World press monitoring