UNITED NATIONS — Afghanistan asked the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to lift sanctions on elements of the Taliban that renounce violence and agree to support the government, signaling a new strategy against the militants.
Meanwhile, the United States said it is tripling its civilian experts in the nation to almost 1,000 — in a complementary effort to the additional 30,000 U.S. troops President Barack Obama has ordered to the Afghanistan.
At a Security Council debate, Afghan Ambassador Zahir Tanin proposed allowing his government to recommend names of Taliban members "willing to renounce violence and join the peace process," so that they would no longer be subject to asset freezes, travel bans and arms embargoes if the council's sanctions panel approves.
Tanin said Afghans are ready to take over their own security and defense, but military efforts cannot bring peace and stability without "reconciliation" among all citizens and "integration" of former combatants.
"Afghanistan's government has opened its door to all Afghans willing to participate in the stabilization and the construction of their country, in line with the Afghan constitution, and with respect for human rights," he said. "But while reconciliation is an Afghan-led effort, it cannot be achieved by the Afghan government alone."
Council members said they support the aims of the Afghan government, but expressed concerns about the plan.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said his nation favors Afghan reconciliation but "the possibility of agreements with Taliban leaders and other terrorists and extremist organizations should not be seriously considered."
"Dialogue is possible only with those who have laid down their weapons, recognized the government and constitution of Afghanistan, and broken their ties with al-Qaida and other terrorist structures," he said.
U.S. Deputy Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo said "one key element" of the United States' political strategy is "to support Afghan-led efforts to reintegrate Taliban members who renounce al-Qaida, lay down their arms, and engage in the constitutional political process."
She said the number of U.S. civilian experts in Afghanistan will grow to 920 by the end of January and "just under 1,000 civilians shortly thereafter," more than triple the 320 Americans on the ground at the end of January 2009.
Norway's Kai Eide, in his final remarks to the council as outgoing head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, warned the overall situation could become "unmanageable" without a better strategy for returning power to Afghans from international military and aid donors.
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