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U.S. Pushes to End Military Stalemate With Taliban

October 15, 2010 at 3:59 PM EST


JEFFREY BROWN: And we turn to the latest moves to speed the end of the Afghan conflict. Margaret Warner has that story.

MARGARET WARNER: The tempo of U.S. ground and air combat is up in Afghanistan, as American forces try to end the military stalemate against the Taliban.

There’s been an especially sharp increase in drone strikes targeted at Taliban leaders. In a speech in London yesterday, commanding General David Petraeus said some 300 Taliban leaders have been killed or captured in the last 90 days.

At the same time, U.S. and NATO officials this week acknowledged they’re facilitating the ability of Taliban officials to take part in peace talks with the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley confirmed that today.

P.J. CROWLEY, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs: Obviously, to travel through Afghanistan from point A to point B, it is — it is best, you know, to coordinate with, you know — you know, the — the Afghan government and ISAF, so everyone’s aware of what is happening. But I’m not going to go into great detail.

MARGARET WARNER: Yesterday, the head of the Afghan council convening the talks said he senses new seriousness on the Taliban’s part.

BURHANUDDIN RABBANI, chairman, Afghan High Peace Council (through translator): Even I have had meetings and talks with some Taliban representatives from time to time, and I can feel the interest among Taliban.

MARGARET WARNER: Today, at a NATO conference in Brussels, U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke said he thought the two were connected.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, special U.S. representative For Afghanistan and Pakistan: There have been an increasing number of people associated with the Taliban who have reached out and said, you know, we want to talk about an alternative to war.

And I think this is, in very large part, the product of this tremendously increased military pressure which ISAF and our Afghan partners have put on the Taliban.

MARGARET WARNER: The stepped-up pressure includes a ground offensive in the Taliban epicenter of Kandahar. Nearly 600 NATO troops have been killed there so far this year, 387 of them American.