The Taliban issued an official statement on the London Conference on Afghanistan being held Thursday. "The war-mongering rulers under the leadership of Obama and Brown want to deceive the people of the world by holding the London conference to show that people still support them," the statement said in part. Read the statement
Leaders from more than 60 nations attended the one-day conference in London. In his speech at the start of the summit, Afghan President Hamid Karzai pitched a plan for integrating Taliban fighters into mainstream Afghan society.
Update: 1:37 p.m. ET: At the conclusion of the one-day meeting, participants in the talks issued a communique expressing their approval of the plan that Afghan President Hamid Karzai introduced earlier in the day. Major international donors were asked to pledge money for the effort, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced after the meeting that Japan has offered $50 million toward the plan. She said the U.S. military in Afghanistan also had funds at its disposal to use to support the program.
London, England - Afghan President Hamid Karzai pitched a plan for integrating Taliban fighters into mainstream Afghan society Thursday, as world powers gathered to find ways to strengthen the Afghan government in the face of a persistent Taliban and al Qaeda insurgency.
"We must reach out to all our countrymen, especially our disenchanted brothers who are not part of al Qaeda or other terrorist networks," Karzai told the participants at the London Conference on Afghanistan - a meeting of more than 60 countries and organizations looking for ways to steer the country away from the grasp of militants.
A central focus of the summit is a $500 million pay-for-peace proposal to bring Taliban fighters into the civilian fold if they promise to renounce violence. The money would create jobs and housing in an effort to moderate the Taliban fighters, helping them return to civilian life. Major international donors are expected to pledge money for the effort.
Karzai also said he would establish a national council for peace reconciliation and integration, followed by a "peace jirga" - a traditional gathering of Afghan tribal leaders - and said he hoped Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah would play a "prominent role."
Update 8:36 a.m. ET: The NATO-led command expressed regret for the killing of a religious leader by a military convoy Thursday. "Despite all the measures that we put in place to ensure the safety of the Afghan people, regrettable incidents such as this one can occur. On behalf of ISAF I express my sincere regrets for this loss of life and convey my deepest condolences to his family," said ISAF spokesman Brig Gen. Eric Tremblay, quoted in an ISAF news release.
Kabul, Afghanistan - Angry demonstrations took place Thursday outside a U.S. military base on the outskirts of Kabul after NATO-led forces fatally shot an Afghan religious leader. Mullah Mohmmad Younas, 36, of Paktia Kowt Mosque in Ud-Khil district, was sitting in a parked car with his two young sons, waiting for a convoy belonging to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force to pass, witnesses said.
The fourth ISAF vehicle opened fire without provocation, witnesses said. Abdul Ghafar, chief of criminal investigation for the Kabul police, said ISAF forces opened fire because the man got too close to the convoy. FULL POST
Kabul, Afghanistan - The Afghan government is blaming Pakistani intelligence agents and al Qaeda for burned Qurans found in Helmand Province last week, a spokesman for the provincial government said.
A sack of burned Qurans was discovered by troops with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan forces, said Daoud Ahmadi, the Helmand government spokesman, on Wednesday. The Quran is the holy book of Islam.
They were found in a home in the district of Garmsir on Friday along with some ammunition, Ahmadi said. The owner of the home said the Qurans' burning was caused by an airstrike, but there was no other damage from an airstrike in the area, he added.
The owner of the home - whose son is a member of the Taliban - has been arrested in connection with the discovery, Ahmadi said. Two others have also been arrested, he said, for allegedly distributing pages of the burned Quran to area villagers. FULL POST
U.S. President Barack Obama delivered his first State of the Union address on Wednesday night, almost two months after he made his major speech on Afghanistan policy. Here were his remarks regarding Afghanistan in the Wednesday speech:
"And in Afghanistan, we're increasing our troops and training Afghan security forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011 and our troops can begin to come home. We will reward good governance, work to reduce corruption, and support the rights of all Afghans, men and women alike. We're joined by allies and partners who have increased their own commitment and who'll come together tomorrow in London to reaffirm our common purpose. There will be difficult days ahead, but I am absolutely confident we will succeed."
Ministers from more than 50 governments and representative from an array of international organizations will gather in London Thursday for a conference regarding Afghanistan. One of the issues to be discussed will be negotiations with the Taliban.
“The pros and cons of dealing with the Taliban will loom large at the conference in London this week, where Mr. Karzai is scheduled to present his plan for lower-level reintegration,” report Mark Landler and Helene Cooper of the New York Times.
“While Mullah Omar remains off limits for the United States, the administration’s openness to reconciling with other Taliban leaders has grown since last year, officials say, because of its recognition that the war is not going to be won purely on the battlefield.”
One of the focuses of the London Conference on Afghanistan on Thursday will be how to reach a peace with at least some Taliban fighters.
Is it possible? Reader Richard writes, "The only way to effectively negotiate with the Taliban to treat them the way they treat others...mercilessly."
But other readers say it's feasible: "I believe the Afghani Taliban are a rare group that can be negotiated with," says Melanie. "Both sides should sit down, have a healthy meal with good tea and coffee, show respect in speech and actions, and the results will be a miracle."
What do you think? Is negotiating with the Taliban a good idea? Can a peace ever be met with the Taliban? Can lower level Taliban leaders be brought into the political and social fabric of Afghanistan?
LONDON, England - On the eve of a conference here Thursday on Afghanistan, NATO has signed an agreement with the foreign minister of Kazakhstan allowing transit through Kazakhstan of supplies for NATO and coalition forces. The agreement allows for supplies to start moving by air from Europe to Afghanistan "in the coming days," according to a statement from NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Meanwhile, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday in London that a separate July agreement between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev allowing flights of U.S. military equipment through Russian airspace to Afghanistan, is set up but "running more slowly than we would have liked." FULL POST
Representatives from 60 nations will meet in London on Thursday for a conference on Afghanistan, looking at the future and that well-used phrase "the way ahead." The one-day conference will be co-hosted by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Afghanistan President Karzai and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. (Karzai speaks to the media with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, above).
After so many years of war, this conference will focus heavily on trying to reach a peace with at least some Taliban fighters.
Sen. Carl Levin, Democrat from Michigan and the Armed Services Committee chairman, just returned from Afghanistan. "[A] thing to watch is whether or not President Karzai and we can come up with a program for reintegration of those lower level Taliban which will chip away at the power of the Taliban and help to support the efforts of the Afghan security forces," he said.
At Thursday's summit, Karzai is expected to ask for $500 million for an initiative to offer jobs and homes to moderate Taliban fighters, helping them return to civilian life.
U.S. commanders acknowledge the need to bring at least some lower level Taliban leaders into the political and social fabric of Afghanistan. When asked if the Taliban could play a role in the future of Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top military commander, said, "I think any Afghans can play a role if they focus on the future, and not the past."
But reality remains harsh. U.S. military intelligence calculates the Taliban now have shadow governments in 33 of 34 provinces - raising questions about whether they see a need to come to the negotiating table.