Army chief:

Exclusive: Army chief: 'We must tackle Taliban grievances'

Former head of SAS reveals how he will implement new strategy in Afghanistan

The British commander tasked with helping to bring to an end eight years of war in Afghanistan by persuading the Taliban to lay down their arms believes many in the enemy ranks have "done nothing wrong".

The Islamist extremists now waging a ferocious insurgency against Nato forces are almost universally reviled for promoting a medieval style of fundamentalism and perpetrating brutal abuses of human rights, but Lieutenant-General Sir Graeme Lamb told The Independent that many in the Taliban's rank and file carry a sense of "anger and grievances which have not been addressed".

The former head of the SAS has been asked to turn the seemingly relentless tide of war in Afghanistan by overseeing the implementation of the new US-led strategy of promoting engagement with Taliban "moderates" and convincing them to switch sides. However, he warned that it would be wrong and counter-productive to impose "Western preconceptions" on the process of winning them over.

The reach of the insurgency was highlighted yesterday by another bloody attack in the capital, Kabul, in which six Italian soldiers of the Nato force were killed. The continuing violence takes place against a backdrop of rising opposition in Europe to the conflict, recriminations over the course of the war, and an acrimonious confrontation between President Hamid Karzai and Western powers over allegations of widespread fraud in the Afghan elections last month. The process of "talking to the Taliban" is being presented as similar to the strategy employed in Iraq during the US-led military "surge" conducted under General David Petraeus.

Sir Graeme, 56, who worked closely with General Petraeus in Iraq, is seen by senior American military figures as one of those who was instrumental in turning Sunni nationalist groups (the so called "Sunni awakening") against al-Qa'ida, an initiative now seen as a major turning point in the war.

The tactic is, however, particularly controversial in Afghanistan, with human-rights campaigners and a number of Afghan MPs, especially women, fearing it will lead to the sacrifice of essential human rights and the reimposition of the strict Islamic sharia law in return for a ceasefire.

But in his first interview since his appointment to the post, Sir Graeme insisted the democratic gains achieved since the fall of the Taliban would not be jettisoned, and that dialogue with the insurgents was essential to end the bloodshed.

"We need to take a good look at the people we consider to be our enemies. A lot of young men fighting us have not done anything wrong. They have anger and grievances which have not been addressed. The better life they expected has not materialised; these are the people we must talk to, but we must make sure we have something to offer them."

The campaigning woman MP Malalai Joya, the target of death threats by insurgents, is one of those who have warned that "talking to the Taliban" could be the pretext for Western governments desperately seeking an exit strategy from their military quagmire to cut deals which involve compromising civil liberties. Speaking at Nato's headquarters in Kabul, Sir Graeme said: "There is no question of that – we are not here to give up people's freedom. What we do have to do is combine new culture and old culture and work out something that works. We will be listening to what our Afghan colleagues say. I will work very closely with them and let them set conditions.

"What we are talking about is bringing people who are outside society, in some cases forced outside society through no fault of their own, back into that society." Sir Graeme said he did not believe the Taliban were waging their war with the consent of the Afghan people. "I read the other day how they cut off the ears and nose of a bloke who was on his way to vote," he said. "Is that getting consent, or ruling by terror? What we need to do is ensure that men like that will get the security to exercise his right and, perhaps, one day, some of those fighting us now will be providing that security.

"Judge us by not just what we say, the promises we make, but what we do, what we deliver at the end."

Sir Graeme's crucial mission was at the centre of a fractious debate in Washington, DC last week over the expected call for thousands more troops by the US commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal.

Appearing before a US Senate hearing, Admiral Mike Mullen, chief of staff of US forces, was asked why it took so long to call in the British commander to open dialogue with Afghan insurgents. He said it was "an area of focus". Asked how the Taliban could have seized the initiative against the world's most powerful military, despite having no tanks or aircraft, the admiral replied: "They are very good at it. It is their country. They know how to fight.

Sir Graeme said of his new Afghan posting: "I wouldn't have taken this job if I hadn't been confident of ultimate success, but there will be no quick fix. People who want major changes before Christmas will be disappointed, but I hope positive changes would become apparent by next spring and summer."

* Britain faces a "horse and tank" moment in deciding what kind of armed forces it can afford at a time of economic hardship, the new head of the army said yesterday. General Sir David Richards maintained that a stringent review was needed to answer the acute questions posed by warfare in the 21st century. He said: "To succeed, we must examine rigorously what capabilities we need and where we must rebalance our investment in defence – and rebalance we must, not from one service to another but from one type of conflict to another, for we simply cannot afford to retain a full suite of capability for all eventualities."

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little