x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Obama: US is not winning Afghan war

President Barack Obama admits the US is not winning the war in Afghanistan and hints at possible Taliban talks.

The United States is not winning the war in Afghanistan, US President Barack Obama has said, and hinted at possible talks with moderate elements of the Taliban. Highlighting the success of the US strategy of bringing some Sunni Iraqi insurgents to the negotiating table and away from al Qa'eda, Mr Obama told The New York Times that "there may be some comparable opportunities in Afghanistan and the Pakistani region".

The strategy in Iraq had been developed by General David Petraeus, then commander of US forces in the country. "If you talk to General Petraeus, I think he would argue that part of the success in Iraq involved reaching out to people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists, but who were willing to work with us because they had been completely alienated by the tactics of al Qa'eda in Iraq," Mr Obama said in the interview published in the online edition of the Times.

But Mr Obama warned that Afghanistan was not Iraq, and reconciliation efforts could face difficulties. "The situation in Afghanistan is, if anything, more complex. You have a less governed region, a history of fierce independence among tribes. Those tribes are multiple and sometimes operate at cross purposes, so figuring all that out is going to be a much more of a challenge," he said. During his presidential campaign last year, Mr Obama told Time magazine that opportunities to negotiate with some Taliban elements "should be explored".

Asked by the Times if the United States was winning the war in Afghanistan, which he has called the "central front in the war on terror", Mr Obama simply replied: "No." "You've seen conditions deteriorate over the last couple of years. The Taliban is bolder than it was. I think in the southern regions of the country, you're seeing them attack in ways that we have not seen previously," he said. "The national government still has not gained the confidence of the Afghan people."