‘More Taliban cadres joining reconciliation’

LONDON: Increasing numbers of senior Taliban members are showing interest in reconciliation talks, a senior Foreign Office official said in a briefing to journalists in London on Friday. However, there was not much chance of a sudden breakthrough in negotiations, she added.

Regarding Pakistan’s role in reconciliation efforts, the official said that although Pakistan has an important stake in Afghanistan it is not a controlling stake and the interests of other countries in the region would also have to be taken into account.

The reconciliation efforts, she said, were Afghan led, and President Karzai had made it clear that there would be no preconditions to talks.

She acknowledged that the Pakistan Army had made ‘heroic efforts’ to combat violent extremism but added that Britain would like to see more efforts between Kabul and Islamabad to deny safe havens to the Taliban.

Asked whether the level of violence in the region needed to be lowered, she said it was the UK’s position that military pressure should continue as the Taliban were continuing to harass and intimidate villagers.

The official refused to comment on the use of drones in the conflict and whether they were ‘operationally helpful’. This was a matter for the US and Pakistan, she said, and the British government assumes that its allies are acting within the bounds of international law.

Asked if the British government ‘approved’ of drone strikes, she said it was “not an issue on which the British government’s approval is needed.”

The purpose of the briefing was to apprise the media of the progress that had been made in the last year towards ‘normalisation’ in Afghanistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2011.


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