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NATO Commander Hopes for Peace Deal With Taliban

VOA News 25 January 2010

The top NATO commander in Afghanistan, U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, says he hopes the increased number of American troops in Afghanistan will lead to a negotiated peace deal with the Taliban.

In an interview published in The Financial Times Monday, General McChrystal said he will use the additional 30,000 U.S. troops to weaken the insurgency to the point where its leaders would accept a settlement with the Afghan government.

McChrystal said he believes that any Afghan could play a role in the Afghan government if "they focus on the future and not the past," suggesting that Taliban leaders could take part in the government once fighting ends.

The U.S. general said he sees this week's international conference on Afghanistan as an opportunity to rally countries around his counter-insurgency strategy. The international community has shown concerns over the rise in coalition casualties and the tarnished credibility of the Afghan government.

On Sunday, Afghanistan's election authorities postponed the country's parliamentary elections planned for May 22, citing funding and security concerns.

Election commissioner Fazil Ahmed Manawi said the vote will be pushed back to September 18 because the commission does not have the $120 million to conduct the vote.

Election officials defended their decision, saying it will allow the country to hold a transparent and fair election acceptable to all Afghans.

In violence Monday, the Norwegian military said a roadside bomb killed one of its soldiers in northwestern Afghanistan.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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