In an interview with The New York Times aboard Air Force One, President Obama said the United States was not winning the war in Afghanistan. He said as part of a process of reconciliation, the US would reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan — like it did with Sunni militias in Iraq.
Q. Do you see a time when you might be willing to reach out to more moderate elements of the Taliban, to try to peel them away, towards reconciliation?
A. I don’t want to pre-judge the review that’s currently taking place. If you talk to General Petraeus, I think he would argue that part of the success in Iraq involved reaching out to people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists, but who were willing to work with us because they had been completely alienated by the tactics of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
There may be some comparable opportunities in Afghanistan and the Pakistani region. But the situation in Afghanistan is, if anything, more complex. You have a less governed region, a history of fierce independence among tribes. Those tribes are multiple and sometimes operate at cross purposes, so figuring all that out is going to be a much more of a challenge.