NATO does not intend to bribe Taliban guerrillas to defect to the Afghan government side as a way to end the war, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said today, dismissing concerns over the latest plan to end the country's growing insurgency.
Fogh Rasmussen's comments came amid a renewed push to make peace with moderate Taliban insurgents and draw them into the political process. The North Atlantic alliance has strongly backed an Afghan plan to bring the insurgents over to the government's side.
Yesterday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai visited Saudi Arabia, hoping the kingdom would help persuade Taliban militants to take part in a negotiated settlement to the war. Saudi Arabia has a unique relationship with the Taliban since it was one of the few countries to recognise its regime in Afghanistan before it was ousted in 2001.
In a post on the alliance's Web site ahead of a two-day meeting of NATO defence ministers in Istanbul, Fogh Rasmussen said a new USD 140 million trust fund would offer insurgents an alternative to remaining with the Taliban.
"Much attention is on the new reconciliation and reintegration effort initiated by the Afghan government. Questions were raised if we are bribing the Taliban just to get peace," he said. "I understand why this is a sensitive issue for many."
He said many rank-and-file insurgents were not fighting against the government and international troops for religious and ideological reasons.