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US seeking to split Taliban with cash and jobs offers: report

December 17, 2009 18:18 IST

The United States and its allies are offering cash and jobs to Taliban fighters as part of a stepped up negotiation with representatives of Mullah Omar and other insurgents to persuade them to lay down their arms, a news report said on Thursday.

The renewed efforts to negotiate a deal with the Taliban comes amid the surge in troops for Afghanistan announced by President Barack Obama in a bid to weaken the insurgency and promote a negotiated end to the region's violence. "The strategy is to peel away so many fighters" from the insurgent chiefs that they will be left like "floating icebergs and have no one left to command," said Kenneth Katzman, an Afghanistan specialist at the Congressional Research Service.

Several Pakistani, Middle Eastern and US officials said in interviews that Saudi and Pakistani officials, acting with tacit American encouragement, are talking with "second tier" Taliban leaders connected with Mullah Omar, the Washington Times reported. Beyond talks with militant commanders, a second component of the American strategy is to lure rank-and-file fighters with jobs and cash, the report said.

Defense Department spokesman Army Lieutenant Colonel Mark Wright said the Pentagon is supporting commanders to win over the "USĀ $ 5-and US $ 10-a-day Taliban-for-hire fighter. This is a multi-pronged process," he said.

"We need talks with Taliban, enhanced security and continuous efforts to lure back the low-level Taliban fighter," he was quoted as saying by the US daily. The Times reported recently that one-eyed ruthless Mullah Omar has been hiding in the Pakistani port city of Karachi and was brought there with the knowledge of Pakistani intelligence.

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