US in talks with Taliban
Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged that the US administration has been in talks with Taliban as it tries to cut down troops in Afghanistan this year.
“There has been outreach on the part of a number of countries, including the United States. I would say that these contacts are very preliminary at this point,” said Gates in an interview with CNN commenting on a recent statement by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that US is in direct talks with Taliban.
But House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers warned during an interview on CBS that direct talks with the Taliban reflects a “disaster” for US strategy in Afghanistan, saying “we are in a very, very precarious place in Afghanistan right now.
“This administration’s weakness is they want to have those successes but they want to have the political solution first and then find the military component; this was not about Osama Bin Laden. This was about Osama Bin Laden being able to operate with a safe haven, and that was the Taliban,” added the Republican Congressman.
In a separate interview with Fox News, Gates defended President Barack Obama’s limited involvement in Libya, calling it “the right strategy.” “We were at war in Iraq still, we had 50,000 troops in Iraq, we have 100, 000 troops in Afghanistan, we have 24,000 people engaged in Japanese earthquake relief, we have a number of commitments around the world,” he added.
Gates noted “the arrangement and the understanding that the President had with our key allies form the very beginning was the US would come in heavy at the beginning, establish the no fly zone and then had off the operation to our allies and that we would recede into a support role”, said Gates while adding that this strategy can work over time.
The Pentagon chief also argued that Obama is not in violation of the War Powers Act over ongoing operations in Libya, as some members of Congress are suggesting, which asks the President to seek congressional approval within 60 days of the start of hostilities.
“I believe that President Obama has complied with the law consistent in a manner with virtually all of his predecessors. I do not think he is breaking any new ground here,” affirmed Gates.
Meanwhile, Senator John McCain warned his Republican colleagues of continuing to push the White House on not being involved in Libya.
“I would say to my Republican friends, if this were a Republican President, would you be trying to impose these same conditions? I caution my friends, both here in the Senate and in the House of Representatives that we do not want to do anything or pass legislation which would encourage (Libyan leader Muammar) al-Qadda.