German defense minister considers dialog with Taliban | Germany | News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 20.12.2009

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German defense minister considers dialog with Taliban

German defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has advocated talks with what he called 'moderate' Taliban in an effort to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan.

German defense minister in front of the NATO and Afghan flags

Guttenberg is toeing a fine line between NATO and Afghanistan

In an interview with the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, Guttenberg proposed opening up channels for dialog with certain Taliban groups, but warned of the pitfalls of such a strategy.

Describing his definition of 'moderate' Taliban, Guttenberg said "there were differences between the groups in Afghanistan, with some, which radically oppose anything western and whose goal it is to fight our culture, and those which are simply immersed in their own, local culture."

The defense minister said that he believed "cutting off every form of communication was no longer valid on the whole, although there must be criteria."

"One does not have to follow Obama"

Guttenberg again rejected demands by US President Barack Obama to boost Germany's troop contingent in Afghanistan, saying "I would be careful with the words: one has to follow Obama."

"We should establish our own goal of forming a strategy that reflects our own experience," he said.

NATO and the White House have urged Germany to provide at least an additional two battalions for northern Afghanistan.

In a reference to the scheduled conference on Afghanistan in London at the end of January, Guttenberg said that "the first logical step of any new strategic approach is not to say we will send more troops and then figure out the strategy, but to formulate the strategy and then decide how many troops and civilians we will need."

By the same token, Guttenberg criticized opposition Social Democrat leader Sigmar Gabriel, who has rejected outright any boosting of German troop strength in Afghanistan.

That again would mean "making a commitment before defining a strategy," he said.

Editor: Andreas Illmer

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