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U.S. Defense Chief Says Taliban Leader Unlikely To Reconcile

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates (in file photo) was speaking on his way to India.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he doubts that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar will ever choose to make peace with the Afghan government.

Gates told reporters on January 18 that a process of reconciliation and reintegration of Taliban fighters is essential to stabilizing Afghanistan.

He was referring to a new initiative from Afghan leaders aimed at persuading militant fighters who have no strong allegiances to terrorists to leave the insurgency and reintegrate into Afghan society.

The plan, expected to be officially announced later this month, would reportedly include providing job training and money to fighters who lay down their weapons.

The U.S. defense chief said he believes the program could be successful with lower-level fighters at a local or provincial level. But he said he doesn't think the chances are high that senior Taliban leaders, including Omar, will decide to quit their armed conflict until they realize their forces are likely to be defeated.

Gates spoke with reporters traveling with him on a plane to India.

compiled from agency reports