"Brown: It's time to talk to the Taliban" - The Independent
"Brown: Talk to the Taliban" - Daily Mail
If true, the move will mark the biggest break from the Blair years since Gordon Brown became Prime Minister. Both newspapers say that the White House has been informed of the shift in policy but hint that the administration's "hardliners" are unhappy.
This from The Independent:
"Senior government officials said it was an error to see the Taliban as a unified organisation rather than as a disparate group of Afghan tribesmen, often farmers recruited at the end of the gun, infiltrated by foreign fighters. The aim is to divide the Taliban's local support from al-Qa'ida and militants from Pakistan."
Britain's Conservatives reacted cautiously to the news. Defence spokesman Gerald Howarth MP said: "Sometimes you do have to talk with the enemy, but Gordon Brown has got to be careful he is not placing too much emphasis on doing a deal with people who are unwilling or unable to deliver."
There are two principal dangers of this approach:
- It risks looking like weakness. Brown's withdrawal from southern Iraq - which caused dismay in the White House - has already risked sending the message that Britain is unwilling to see a task through to completion. British retreat in Basra contrasts strongly with the success of the US surge. Now, in Afghanistan, we risk emboldening the Taliban - just as they have sufffered another military defeat, at Musa Qala.
- The Taliban's demands are unacceptable. Gordon Brown may want to suggest he is talking to tribal leaders but it may be difficult to identify where the Taliban starts and ends. Any agreements with Taliban-affiliated tribal leaders risks handing over parts of the nation to groups willing to oppress women and harbour extremists.
Noon: Donal Blaney's take on Brown's move - Whither Courage.
3pm: National Review's reaction: "Do we need to fight them? Do we need to fight them??? I am at a loss for words. Stunned."