Dems criticize Frist for Taliban comments
Democrats accused Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of waving a white flag of surrender for saying the Afghan war against Taliban guerrillas...
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Democrats accused Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of waving a white flag of surrender for saying the Afghan war against Taliban guerrillas can never be won militarily and favoring bringing "people who call themselves Taliban" into the government.
Frist, who was traveling in Afghanistan — where two U.S. soldiers were killed and three wounded Monday — said that Taliban fighters were too numerous and too popular to be defeated.
"You need to bring them into a more transparent type of government," he said Monday. "And if that's accomplished, we'll be successful."
The comments from the Tennessee Republican, a potential 2008 presidential candidate, come as President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have accused Democrats of being weak on national security and adhering to a policy of retreat.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said after the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States went to war in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban for its role with al-Qaida.
"Senator Frist now suggests that the best way forward in Afghanistan is to coddle the Taliban by welcoming Taliban members into a coalition government, as if 9/11 had never happened," Pelosi said Tuesday in a statement.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in responding to Bush's criticism of Democrats, said: "His Republican leader in the Senate thinks America should empower the Taliban terrorists who aided and abetted Osama bin Laden."
In Afghanistan, Frist also said: "Approaching counterinsurgency by winning hearts and minds will ultimately be the answer. Military versus insurgency one-to-one doesn't sound like it can be won. It sounds to me ... that the Taliban is everywhere."
Frist spokeswoman Amy Call sought Tuesday to clarify the senator's comments.
"While touring Afghanistan, Senator Frist made the observation that Afghan tribesman should be brought into the government or risk losing them to the Taliban," she said in a statement. "Giving the native tribes, often targeted by Taliban recruitment, a voice in the government will promote peace and prosperity in the region. Sen. Frist does not believe Taliban fighters — often foreign fighters who come to Afghanistan to further conflict — should be brought into the reconciliation process."
Democrats said that amounted to backpedaling and accused Frist of trying to "cut-and-run" in Afghanistan, something Republicans have been accusing Democrats of seeking to do in Iraq.
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