British general's comments show 'new path' needed in Afghanistan: Layton

NDP Leader Jack Layton jumped on a British general's comments Sunday that Western forces will never win against insurgents and negotiations with the Taliban may be necessary.

Jack Layton jumped on a British general’s comments Sunday that Western forces will never win against insurgents and negotiations with the Taliban may be necessary.

Campaigning in Newfoundland, the NDP leader said was "heartened" by Brig.-Gen. Mark Carleton-Smith's comments to a London newspaper.

Later Sunday, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the Conservatives would be "supportive of discussions" provided the talks were headed by the democratically elected Afghan government, and as long as the "terrorists" renounced violence.

"There has got to be a new path" for the West in Afghanistan because "clearly things aren't working," Layton said, citing the booming heroin trade, increasing civilian and military casualties and the inability of Western forces to control large parts of the country.

The NDP backs negotiations and increased UN involvement, Layton said. If elected, "we would launch a diplomatic offensive" after bringing Canada's 2,500 soldiers home.

The NDP doesn't hold any of Newfoundland and Labrador's seven seats; four are Liberal and three Conservative. But Layton is trying to change that, calling on Green backers to consider the NDP.

"You'll find a comfortable home with the New Democrats," he said.

Later, in response to a reporter's question, he said he was appealing to "progressives" in all parties, Conservative, Liberal, Green and Bloc Québécois. "I've been opening my door to all of them," he said.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper took Sunday off. Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion campaigned in Iqaluit, Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe was near Montreal, and Green Leader Elizabeth May was in Nova Scotia, where she is trying to replace MacKay in the Central Nova riding.