When generals tell us to talk, we should listen

CHURCHILL'S maxim that to jaw-jaw is better than to war-war is one that could usefully be applied in most situations where this country is either engaged in a conflict or poised to enter one. Put simply, when people talk to each other there are likely to be fewer people dying.

Yesterday General David Petraeus, the head of the US Central Command, and General Stanley McChrystal, commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, suggested following Churchill's axiom in Afghanistan.

Both men are battle-hardened warriors who are pressing ahead with a plan to increase the pressure on the Taleban using the 30,000 more American troops heading to Afghanistan.

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Yet both men held out the possibility of talks eventually being held with the "insurgent" leadership as they try to look ahead to an end to a war that is now into its ninth year.

With the latest evidence showing that Nato forces control very little of Afghanistan, and with many predicting there can never be an absolute victory against such a loosely mustered enemy, these are wise words indeed.

Alongside a military strategy to curb the Taleban there must be a political one that does not naively seek to impose an idealistic western style of democracy on Afghanistan.

Taking to the Taleban to reach a compromise power-sharing agreement may seem wrong to some – the Taleban is the "enemy" after all – but it is a welcome, pragmatic and realistic suggestion.