British PM backs Taliban peace talks

2013-06-29 20:32
UK Prime Minister David Cameron (Picture: AP)

UK Prime Minister David Cameron (Picture: AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Kabul - British Prime Minister David Cameron made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Saturday, backing talks with the Taliban after his top general said the West missed a chance to strike a peace deal 10 years ago.

Cameron visited troops in the southern province of Helmand before meeting with President Hamid Karzai as the Afghan government and international powers try to revive peace efforts that recently collapsed in ignominy.

"You can argue about whether the settlement we put in place after 2001 could have been better arranged. Of course you can make that argument," Cameron told Sky News in response to remarks by General Nick Carter, the senior British officer in Afghanistan.

Carter told Saturday's Guardian newspaper that an opportunity to try to bring peace to Afghanistan was missed when the Taliban were on the defensive in 2002, after they were ousted following the 9/11 attacks.

"The Taliban were on the run," Carter said. "At that stage, if we had been very prescient, we might have spotted that a final political solution... would have involved getting all Afghans to sit at the table and talk about their future."

Carter, deputy commander of the Nato-led coalition, acknowledged it was "easy to be wise with the benefit of hindsight" but Afghanistan's problems were political issues that "are only ever solved by people talking to each other".

More than a decade on, the search for a peace deal is now an urgent priority as 100 000 US-led Nato troops prepare to exit next year and Afghan forces take on the fight against the rebels.

"There is a window of opportunity and I would urge all those who renounce violence, who respect the constitution, who want to have a voice in the future prosperity of this country to seize it," Cameron told reporters in Kabul.

"The Taliban... are beginning to realise that they are not going to secure a role in Afghanistan's future through terror and violence, but by giving up their arms and engaging in a political process."

A Taliban office in Qatar that opened on 18 June was meant to foster talks but instead triggered a diplomatic bust-up when the insurgents used the title of the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" from their 1996-2001 reign.

Talks halted

Karzai, furious that the office was being styled as an embassy for a government-in-exile, broke off bilateral security talks with the Americans and threatened to boycott any peace process altogether.

Only hours after the Qatar office opened, a Taliban rocket attack killed four Americans on the largest military base in Afghanistan.

Days later, a suicide squad targeted the presidential palace and a CIA office in the most audacious assault in Kabul in years.

"The attack that was organised near the presidential palace will not deter us from seeking peace," Karzai said, describing the assault in which three security guards and all five assailants were killed as "peanuts".

"We want to talk peace... because that is what the country needs, that is what also the Taliban need," he told the joint press conference with Cameron.

Karzai said that the US security talks, which would allow Washington to maintain soldiers in Afghanistan after the Nato combat mission ends, remained suspended.

"President [Barack] Obama hopes to get the security pact between Afghanistan and America by October," Karzai said.

"I told him that we have some clear and unchangeable conditions in this regard, which is peace and security in Afghanistan, guarantee of Afghanistan's national interest, a stable central government and an united Afghanistan."

Obama recently said he anticipated "a lot of bumps in the road" but that a peace settlement with the Islamist militants was the only way to end violence in Afghanistan.

More than 3 300 coalition personnel have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, peaking at 711 deaths in 2010, according to the independent website.

As Nato troops pull back, Afghan soldiers and police are increasingly responsible for tackling the Taliban, who were deposed in 2001 for sheltering al-Qaeda leaders behind the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

"Since my first visit to Helmand in 2006 there has been a remarkable transformation," Cameron said. "Then there were almost no Afghan forces whereas today there are 340 000 capable and determined troops."

Peace talks with the Taliban were previously anathema to many Western leaders, with Cameron's predecessor Gordon Brown vowing in 2007 that Britain "will not enter into any negotiations with these people".

Read more on:    nato  |  barack obama  |  hamid karzai  |  david cameron  |  afghanistan

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.