U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said Monday that the war against Taliban guerrillas in Afghanistan could never be won militarily, and he urged support for efforts to bring “people who call themselves Taliban” into the government.
Frist said he learned from military briefings that Taliban fighters were too numerous and had too much popular support to be defeated on the battlefield.
“You need to bring them into a more transparent type of government,” he said during a visit to a military base in the Taliban stronghold of Qalat. “And if that’s accomplished, we’ll be successful.”
Afghanistan is suffering its heaviest insurgent attacks since U.S.-led forces ousted the fundamentalist Taliban regime in late 2001 for harboring Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
The U.S. military said today that two American troops and one Afghan soldier were killed in fighting in Kunar province.
Frist said that asking the Taliban to join the government was a decision to be made by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Spokesmen for Karzai could not be reached for comment.
Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), accompanying Frist, said that negotiating with the Taliban was not “out of the question,” but that fighters who refused to join the political process would have to be defeated.
“A political solution is how it’s all going to be solved,” he said.
Frist said there appeared to be an “unlimited flow” of Afghans and foreigners “willing to pick up arms and integrate themselves with the Taliban.”
He said the only way to win was to “assimilate people who call themselves Taliban into a larger, more representative government.”
“Approaching counterinsurgency by winning hearts and minds will ultimately be the answer,” Frist said. “Military versus insurgency one-to-one doesn’t sound like it can be won. It sounds to me ... that the Taliban is everywhere.”