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Page last updated at 15:46 GMT, Thursday, 17 September 2009 16:46 UK

Taliban militants 'can be turned'

Gen Graeme Lamb (pic: Army)
Gen Lamb believes Taliban militants can be persuaded to give up fighting

The British general tasked with persuading Taliban militants to stop fighting in Afghanistan has said the mission is "do-able".

Gen Sir Graeme Lamb was giving his first interview since taking up his new role after conducting similar negotiations with insurgents in Iraq.

He told the BBC he would ask local village elders to identify militants most likely to give up their guns.

But Gen Lamb also admitted the war in Afghanistan "had drifted".

The former British special forces commander was appointed in August to mastermind a programme of reconciliation with members of the Taliban.

He came out of retirement to take up the position, for which he was selected by the overall US and Nato commander in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal.

Dialogue drive

Speaking to the BBC from Kabul, Gen Lamb said: "The reason I've taken this post is because I do believe it's do-able. I am absolutely convinced we can do this."

FROM THE WORLD AT ONE

He described many militants as "young men, fighting well, for a bad cause" who could respond to dialogue.

"Who are these Taliban? They are local people, the vast majority are guns for hire, not fighting for some ideological reason," he told Radio 4's The World At One programme.

"These are local people who need to have a dialogue to understand why, and then they have the choice to have a better life."

Gen Lamb also said he would use the knowledge of village leaders to help identify militants who could be persuaded to lay down their arms.

"The leaders of the communities know who is acting badly, and who is acting very badly, and who is a young fellow who has taken an opportunity for money.

"So there is a wealth of intelligence, understanding and information out there, all we have to do is to look to see how we can exploit it and how we can draw it in."

But he was critical of some aspects of the campaign in Afghanistan, saying the focus had "drifted" and had "lacked coherence".

"So far we've identified 69 programmes [working towards] reintegration - most of these are not in any way co-ordinated. We need to bring some coherence."



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