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US doubtful of ‘grand bargain’ with Taliban to stop war
 
 
 

WASHINGTON - The departing US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, does not see a “grand bargain” with Taliban leader Mullah Omar” to stop the fighting, but said that the Afghan government can win over individual Taliban leaders.In an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Crocker, who recently secured a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan, sees “every chance” for American forces presence on Afghan soil to “advise and assist” the country post-2014 withdrawal of combat troops. His interview was part of a column on the US role in Afghanistan which was published in the newspaper on Tuesday. Crocker, who previously served in Islamabad, also backed the resumption of a “high-level strategic dialogue” with Pakistan. “I think there is every chance that post-2014 we will continue to have a presence here,” Crocker was quoted as saying, “certainly to advise and assist.” The ambassador had just returned from an international donor’s conference in Tokyo that pledged $16 billion for Afghan economic development over the next four years. “Read the Tokyo document,” Crocker said, adding it requires the Afghan government to reduce corruption before receiving all of the money. He insisted that “there is a chance for improvement on corruption,” but it’s a long-term project.Crocker also said it was essential for NATO countries to continue financing Afghanistan’s security forces. Will those forces hold together after US troops leave, he was asked. They will fight, Crocker says, “as long as they feel they are fighting for something and as long as they are getting paid.” Crocker is sceptical about the prospects for a broad peace agreement with the Taliban, despite US efforts to engage them over the last year, the Inquirer said. “There will be no negotiated deal with Mullah Omar,” he says. “It wouldn’t work here. You have a fractured, divided Taliban.”He doubts that Haqqani faction of the Taliban, which is fighting US troops in eastern Afghanistan, will ever reconcile. “We will have to find ways to kill as many Haqqanis as we can,” he says. He is more hopeful about getting “some significant number ofother Taliban leaders willing to reconcile,” as well as getting foot soldiers to change sides.Crocker stressed the importance of a recent encounter at a peace forum in Kyoto, Japan, between a high-ranking Taliban and a senior adviser to Karzai. He says the Taliban will eventually have to bargain with Kabul, not with the Americans. “We haven’t talked to the Taliban in months,” he noted. “It has to be an Afghan deal.” But Ryan Crocker won’t be around to help facilitate any deal. He is heading back to Washington, and then to Texas and academia. Unless he gets another desperate White House call for help.Crocker has served as ambassador to Kuwait, Lebanon, and Syria, Pakistan, and Iraq during the military “surge” in that country. He was enjoying a deanship at Texas A&M University after retirement. But President Obama asked him to return to Kabul a year ago, and Crocker thought he could not refuse.This month, the 63-year-old Crocker will retire again, this time for health reasons, leaving Kabul in a crucial period of transition as the United States prepares to withdraw most of its troops by the end of 2014.

 
 
on epaper page 9
 
 
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