President Barack Obama declared in an interview that the United States was not winning the war in Afghanistan and opened the door to a reconciliation process in which the American military would reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban,much as it did with Sunni militias in Iraq.
In a conversation with The New York Times aboard Air Force One,Obama did not rule out the option of snatching terrorism suspects out of hostile countries. Asked if the United States was winning in Afghanistan,a war he effectively adopted as his own last month by ordering an additional 17,000 troops sent there,Obama replied flatly,No.
Obama said on the campaign trail last year that the possibility of breaking away some elements of the Taliban should be explored, an idea also considered by some military leaders.
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 Qaeda in Iraq, Obama said.
At the same time,he acknowledged that outreach may not yield the same success. The situation in Afghanistan is,if anything,more complex, he said. You have a less governed region,a history of fierce independence among tribes. Those tribes are multiple and sometimes operate at cross purposes,and so figuring all that out is going to be much more of a challenge.