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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Britain 'in secret talks with Taleban' as PM under pressure over withdrawl

I thought they were enemies .... then I wonder who won the war?

The British government was reported last night to have been in negotiations with the Taleban.
In an interview, the Foreign Secretary William Hague is reported to have said: "Talks do happen. We've worked hard behind the scenes."

Mr Hague also held talks with Afghan president Hamid Karzai as part of a surprise visit to the country. He said the UK's involvement in Afghanistan would continue for "many years" after the withdrawal of troops.

"Now there is more to do in the areas of security and reconciliation, in building up economic success and fighting corruption," he said.

The news came as Prime Minister David Cameron was last night under growing pressure to speed up the drawdown of British forces from Afghanistan, as an announcement was due from the United States of its exit plan from the country.

Mr Cameron held telephone talks last night with President Barack Obama on the future plans for the country

Mr Obama was expected to say that some 10,000 US troops will leave Afghanistan this year. Half that number could go next month, and half in the winter.

Mr Obama was also due to give an indication of when the other 20,000 personnel who were part of the "surge" strategy implemented in December 2009, would be withdrawn.

The path to ending the active role played by the US by 2015 was due to be set out in a televised presidential address. Military commanders on both sides of the Atlantic have suggested they want the timetable for extracting forces to be slower.

In an interview recorded for a BBC2 television documentary Afghanistan: War Without End?, broadcast last night, Britain's top soldier General Sir Peter Wall stressed the army was "committed" to the 2015 deadline for ceasing combat operations. But he added: "Whether or not it turns out to be an absolute timeline or more conditions-based approach nearer the time, we shall find out".

Gen Wall was also asked if he accepted that many of the "hearts and minds" of Afghan civilians had in fact been lost, instead of won over by the army. He replied: "Undoubtedly. Yeah, undoubtedly. I accept that."

He said he did not believe that the Helmand mission had changed from the reconstruction plan set out by John Reid five years ago.

Speaking on the same programme, the Prime Minister insisted there would be no movement from the 2015 deadline. "The deadline is a deadline, and it won't slip because I'm very clear that the British people deserve to have a clear end point," he said. Mr Cameron has said 450 British personnel will leave Afghanistan this summer, but there have been widespread calls for that number to be increased.

A spokesman confirmed there had been "conversations" with the US, but added: "They are making an announcement on troop numbers which will be informed by their reading of conditions on the ground."

The Scotsman

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