The Church of Englands Bishop to the Forces warned that it will be harder to reach a peaceful solution to the war if the Afghan insurgents are portrayed too negatively. This comments came as the British Prime Minister visited Afghanistan and warned that the Taliban was fighting a "guerilla war" aimed at causing "maximum damage". Gordon Brown said soldiers were discovering improvised explosive devices every two hours.
Bishop Venner stressed his admiration for the sacrifices made by the British forces fighting in Afghanistan but also urged the need for a reassessment of how the Taliban are viewed. Weve been too simplistic in our attitude towards the Taliban, said Bishop Venner, who was recently commissioned in his new role by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Theres a large number of things that the Taliban say and stand for which none of us in the west could approve, but simply to say therefore that everything they do is bad is not helping the situation because its not honest really.
The Taliban can perhaps be admired for their conviction to their faith and their sense of loyalty to each other.
Besides their attacks on the armed forces, the Taliban have also been responsible for public beatings, amputations and executions and have launched bomb attacks on the civilian population in Afghanistan.
They often refer to foreign forces as Crusaders in an echo of the religious wars of the Middle Ages.
The bishop said that some of their methods of combat are not honourable or acceptable, but argued that it was unhelpful to demonise them.
We must remember that there are a lot of people who are under their influence for a whole range of reasons, and we simply cant lump all of those together.
To blanket them all as evil and paint them as black is not helpful in a very complex situation.
Bishop Venner said that everyone in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, would have to be included in discussions to find a solution to the conflict.
Afghanistan is going we hope in the end to find a way to live together with justice and prosperity for all. In order to do that we have to involve all the people of Afghanistan to find it.
It is that lasting and just peace that will in the end justify the sacrifices our servicemen and women have made."
In the meantime, he said, the Government has a moral duty to ensure that the army is properly equipped.
Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander in Afghanistan who has written about the insurgency, said the bishop was being nave.
We clearly need to understand our enemy but that is more of a military issue rather than a religious one," he said.
There are elements in the Taliban who do not act from a religious perspective and it is important to understand and turn them around.
But there are many others who will not be persuaded. Their central creed and ethos is about violent oppression which comes from a politics of extreme religion that has very little to commend it in terms that we would recognise or appreciate.
In many ways it is a mistake to compare their faith of extreme holy war with the kind of religion of peace and understanding that the bishop follows. They certainly wouldnt show understanding of his faith.
Earlier this year, Peter Davies, the mayor of Doncaster, claimed that British society could learn from Taliban family values. He said that under the Taliban, Afghanistan had an ordered system of family life.
Last month David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, offered parts of the Taliban "an alternative to fighting'' and said men now fighting against British forces should be encouraged to sit in the Afghan parliament.
His comments came a day after a new military strategy was unveiled that talked of the need to negotiate with the Taliban, offering them money or immunity from prosecution in order to secure peace. (Telegraph)