Sec. Gates: U.S. engaged in 'preliminary' peace talks with the Taliban
June 19th, 2011
09:00 AM ET
3 years ago

Sec. Gates: U.S. engaged in 'preliminary' peace talks with the Taliban

Washington (CNN) – The United States has been engaged in peace talks with the Taliban, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday, 11 days before he is set to resign.

"There's been outreach on the part of a number of countries, including the United States," he said. "I would say that these contacts are very preliminary."

Gates affirmed that "a political outcome is the way most of these wars end" and described the communication as being handled by the State Department for "a few weeks, maybe."

"Who really represents the Taliban?" he asked. "We don't want to end up having a conversation at some point with somebody who is basically a freelancer."

As Gates described the early stages of communication, he asserted that any kind of resolution will take time.

"My own view is that real reconciliation talks are not likely to be able to make any substantive headway until at least this winter," he said.

Among the conditions required by the United States of the Taliban: complete disassociation from al Qaeda and "meeting the redlines that President Karzai and the coalition have laid down."

And to Americans who may be "war weary" Gates points out, "I understand we have been at war for ten years, but we have not been at war full-scale in Afghanistan except since last summer."

"The reality is the United States had a very limited commitment in Afghanistan until well into 2008. And we didn't have the right strategy and the right resources for this conflict," he said.

"I understand everybody is war weary. But the reality is we won the first Afghan war in 2001-2002. We were diverted–by Iraq. And we basically neglected Afghanistan for several years," the secretary continued.

Gates, who has served as Secretary of Defense since 2006, believes that the Taliban must "feel themselves under military pressure" by winter 2011 for the talks to be successful-which seems at odds with the president's plans to begin troop withdrawal in July.

"Whatever decision (President Obama) makes, we will have a significant number of troops remaining in Afghanistan," Gates stated. "We've make a lot of progress over the last 15 months."

But he also countered, "We can do anything the president tells us to do. The question is whether it's wise."

One certainty remains for the secretary, who is also the only holdover from President George W. Bush's Cabinet: an end to U.S. combat presence in Afghanistan isn't complicated.

"How this ends is essentially the same way that it ended in Iraq-with us playing a key role for some period of time…this transition to Afghan leadership so that they can keep control of their own country, so that al Qaeda can no longer find a safe haven in Afghanistan, and so the Taliban cannot forcibly overthrow the government of Afghanistan-that doesn't seem that hard to me for people to understand," he said.

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soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Whitey0302

    If we pull out too mant troops this summer (too many is more than 15,000) then there won't be any meaningful peace talks because there won't be enough forces to keep the pressure on the Taliban to come to the table and accept the majority of our demands.

    June 19, 2011 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  2. Keydet

    By talking with the Taliban we are recognizing their legitimacy as an organization as well as their authority and influence in the world.

    June 19, 2011 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  3. CF

    First order of business: What shape for the negotiating table? Second, construct a helicopter pad on the roof of the US embassy in Kabul. Third, decide who gets the Nobel Peace Prize.

    June 19, 2011 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  4. Joshua

    Gates for President!

    June 19, 2011 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  5. RM

    I understand Gates wants to leave behind a legacy and would like to rewrite history. But weren't the 9/11 attackers Saudis Arabians who were trained in USA? So why did we not bomb to dark ages Saudi Arabia?

    June 19, 2011 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  6. Ismet

    This is absurd, Taliban have no interest in peace, their entire mission is to cause unrest, war and conflict are their sustanance.

    June 19, 2011 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  7. J Hazort

    Why are we sitting down and talking with a terrorist organization?

    June 19, 2011 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  8. contraryjim

    How much will the US pay the Taliban in tribute to stop the fighting? Couldn't the US just leave?

    June 19, 2011 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  9. NoPunIntended

    In other words, Obama is giving up on protecting America from terrorists and plans to appease them a la Jimmy Carter.

    June 19, 2011 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  10. G Martin

    So much for the United States not negotiating with terrorist.

    June 19, 2011 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  11. Democrat Class Warfare - Destroying the economy, destroying the country

    The Taliban executed women in stadiums, religated women to subhuman status, destroyed other religions symbols, allied with Al Queda and now Obama is negotiating with these religious terrorists. He is more interested in pleasing his leftist base than ensuring the security of this country. This looks JUST like the "negotiations" that ended the Vietnam war. It will end the same way. Once we leave, the Taliban will murder hundreds of thousands of people and take control of the country through their terror tactics. Is THAT the Obama doctrine?

    June 19, 2011 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  12. sa

    America needs money (resources to afganistan) for its needy americans. By the way, How many civilian were killed by americans' terrorist?

    June 19, 2011 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  13. LLOYD ROBERTS

    Even he finally said it, "WE WERE DISTRACTED BY IRAQ". No truer words ever spoken and the entire reason we are dealing with this now. RM, you are right. 19 hijackers on 9-11-01, 15 of them Saudis, the rest Pakis, Egyptians and from gulf states. And dufus boy Bush hits Iraq that had nothing whatsoever to do with 9-11. Not one hijacker from Iraq, but trillions wasted and a lot of soldiers and time, Bush should be tried for treason

    June 19, 2011 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  14. us guy

    As long as the us, and nato over step their bounderies by invading other countried, we will never have peace with the taliban or any other organization that hates countries or organizations that kill innocent people in search for militias they think r threats

    June 19, 2011 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  15. Steve

    What an embarrassment. You don't negotiate with terrorists.

    June 19, 2011 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  16. Ceadda

    This is definitely a failure of fortitude in our leadership, and as a veteran of both OIF and OEF I feel like I've been slapped in the face. We didn't fight this long and fight this hard merely to negotiate with a band treacherous murderers such as the Taliban. Negotiating with these scum only legitimizes their position, and will do little to change their current attitude or behavior.

    June 19, 2011 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  17. GI Joe

    I'm glad he's a republican, otherwise the blame would be put on President Obama.

    June 19, 2011 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  18. forgotten

    Republicans made the economic mess not democrats

    June 19, 2011 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  19. GI Joe

    He was Shrub's main man – guess he MUST know what he's doing -– since he's a republican.

    June 19, 2011 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  20. Tom

    For those skeptics.... the Taliban was the ruling party in Afghanistan, not a terrorist organization. Additionally, it's time to find some level of solution, and the only way to do that is to talk. In 1942, it would have been unthinkable for citizens to think the US would become economic partners with Japan and Germany. The ONLY way to reduce and eventually eliminate our presence in Afghanistan is to talk.

    June 19, 2011 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  21. Tom

    Also...... Gates confirmed what many have thought... that Bush diverted attention from the real war on terror in Afghanistan, and focused on Iraq.

    June 19, 2011 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  22. Jason

    Its the right thing to do. The war in Afghanistan was totally neglected by the gop and some democrats from 2003 to 2008 because they all wanted to invade Iraq some retarded reason. Anyway Obamas goal these past couple years is too kill as many al qaeda as possible and build the Afghan gov to make it as strong as it can be so that the Taliban cannot just overthrow them. The taliban will eventually play apart. Its impossible to say that they won't there about 20,000 of them in the southeast of the country. What are you going to do kill them all? Nope. They are not going to fade away and they will eventually play a part. Hopefully its on our terms.

    June 19, 2011 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  23. Peter Q Wolfe

    President Barack Hussein Obama is doing the only sensible thing to do in a period of foreign policy. We have to recognize that the Taliban like the MILF and aAPA inthe Philippines do exist and they cannot be completely erradicated offthe face of the map. I remeber my close friend Jeff telling me before he died that the War on Terrr is a joke caue terrorism is anidealogy. It is like the native americans using gorrila warfare during the French-Indian war in that respect unlike the Vietnam war.

    So, the U.S must recognize that we need to integrate these groups like the swedish into assimulation. This way of life must be hard on the Talian as well and they must compromise. Thos people merely want us out of thier lands just that we have a vested interest of being there (e.g. petroleum) so in Saudi Arabi, Sorry the person who said to bomb Saudi Arabi is ignorant cause the Saudi's are one ofthe main reason why America has petrolem right now. So, the Saudi's are as a whole our ally compared to Iran and other key regional players even if we disagree with thie theocracy there is nothing we can do. It is called realism in foreign policy so the idealism in this world won't happen externally rathr internal reforms by thier ow peopleare in order.

    June 19, 2011 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  24. flacco

    Why are we talking with an organize terrorist group?? Those terrorist should be talking to the leaders of afghan and Iraq, not us!

    June 19, 2011 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  25. A

    You know, Gates is a real stand up guy. Got a level head on his shoulders.

    With the cost of war including interest currently standing at $2.7 TRILLION (borrowed money) and approaching 10,000 US lives lost, it's time to look for an end to this mess. That's part of the "real world" too. You can't bankrupt your nation in order to go after every little pest in the world.

    June 19, 2011 10:46 am at 10:46 am |