22 Jan 2010

Karzai wants to reintegrate Taliban members

5:21 pm on 22 January 2010

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai says Britain and the United States are supporting his new plan for attracting members of the Taliban back into society by offering them money and jobs.

Mr Karzai says such attempts to persuade Taliban fighters to abandon the insurgency are not a sign of weakness.

He told the BBC that the scheme would be funded by the international community, and that Britain and the US would show at a conference next week in London that they would back the plan.

Japan was one of the countries prepared to put up the money, he said.

The Taliban currently pay their volunteers significantly more than the Afghan government can afford to give its forces, but Mr Karzai said the Afghan people had to have peace at any price.

War was not the only way forward, he said: there had to be proper peace activity and reconciliation.

Members of 'terrorist networks' not welcome

The Afghan leader emphasised that Taliban supporters who were members of al Qaeda or other terrorist networks would not be accepted. But anyone who accepted the Afghan constitution and did not have an ideological opposition to it could return.

Mr Karzai also vigorously denied that last year's presidential election was fraudulent. He said the vote was seriously misrepresented, especially in the United States and Britain, and accused the former deputy head of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan, Peter Galbraith, of trying to undermine the result.