AFGHAN insurgents should be offered amnesties and removal from the coalition's "wanted" list if they lay down their arms, says the British general charged with coaxing fighters away from their extremist leaders.
"There's no question about it: amnesty would be part of this initiative," Lieutenant General Graeme Lamb said. The insurgents might have blood on their hands, but "who doesn't?" he asked. "We've killed people that they would say 'These were entirely innocent people'."
The Afghan government and the coalition should consider releasing detainees who renounced violence, he said in Kabul.
Drawing on lessons he learned in Northern Ireland, General Lamb argued that neither side could win through force alone.
"The idea that we just continue to fight to a bloody end - from my experience of 38 years of soldiering - would be nonsensical," he said. "We can't fight our way to success."
The only way to end the eight-year war was to win over the "vast majority" of insurgents fighting because they were being paid by the Taliban, had grievances, or had been brainwashed, he said. Many were "young men who fight well, for a bad cause", he said. "Some will have been drawn in because they believe they are doing the right thing."
General Lamb, 56, helped to persuade Sunni insurgents to break with al-Qa'ida in Iraq - a turning point in that war. He said the Taliban's hardline Islamic leadership was beyond redemption: "As night follows day, they will contest us, and challenge us.
We either incarcerate them or kill them or they leave." But he said he doubted that the hardliners account for more than 10 per cent of the insurgency. The rest, he broadly categorises as "upset brothers" or "guns for hire", and insists that they can be persuaded to switch sides through dialogue and economic inducements.
Some will be angry at corruption, or will have lost relatives in coalition airstrikes, or may feel the West has reneged on its promises. Some will have been brainwashed to believe the coalition has come to fight Islam.
Others will have taken up arms because the Taliban pays them $US300 to plant a roadside bomb: "If you have no job, no employment and a fairly uncertain future - and you need to feed your family, or want to match your father's derring-do against the Russians - then you'll be inclined to take that," he said.
Source: The Australian