British, Pakistani PMs to meet Afghan president

Published: 19th July 2012 11:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th July 2012 12:00 PM   |  A+A-

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai on Thursday was to discuss cross-border attacks and Taliban peace talks with the prime ministers of Britain and Pakistan.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and Britain's David Cameron planned to discuss how to stop fighters from spilling across the Afghan-Pakistan border, and how to advance a peace deal to end Afghanistan's insurgency.

The British leader planned to urge Karzai and Ashraf to "work together to achieve a secure and stable Afghanistan," his spokeswoman said, on customary condition of anonymity in line with policy.

Ashraf, who took office last month, and Karzai were also holding separate talks together.

Ahead of the visit, Ashraf's spokesman said Pakistan supports peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, but the outcome should not adversely affect the country.

Pakistan is seen as key to the reconciliation process because of its historical ties with the Taliban.

The militant group has refused peace talks with Karzai, calling him a puppet of the United States. Instead, they have held talks directly with American officials. They broke off talks earlier this year, saying the U.S. reneged on a promise to release Afghan prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. The talks have so far shown no signs of restarting.

Ashraf spokesman Akram Shaheedi said the prime minister also plans to push the Afghan government to stop militants from its country from infiltrating Pakistan.

The British, U.S. and Afghan governments have long criticized Pakistan for not doing enough to stop cross-border attacks.

The Kabul talks marked the end of Cameron's two-day visit to Afghanistan, intended to guide decisions on how fast Britain will withdraw its 9,500 troops before international forces leave by the end of 2014.

In separate talks with Karzai, Cameron intended to discuss the drawdown. He also planned to stress the need for "credible, inclusive and nationwide" presidential elections in 2014, his spokeswoman said, on customary condition of anonymity in line with policy.

Cameron also planned to raise concerns about the deaths of 26 foreign troops so far this year in so called "green-on-blue" killings involving Afghan security officials attacking NATO's US-led International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF.

Such attacks have fueled distrust between U.S. and other foreign troops and their Afghan partners.

Three British soldiers were killed July 1 by an Afghan policeman as they attended a meeting of local officials.

Cameron also met in Kabul with the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, who gave him a positive message on the country's overall security picture as they discussed recent violence in northeastern Afghanistan.

Allen said the process of handing security duties to local forces was progressing well, though the Afghan army still needs to improve its command and control capabilities, Cameron's spokeswoman said.

Cameron also discussed the issue of "green-on-blue" killings on Wednesday in Helmand, southern Afghanistan, where British forces are mainly based.

"Clearly people are seized of the risks and there is quite a lot of work going on over this," Cameron's spokeswoman said.

Malcolm Chalmers of London's military think tank, the Royal United Services Institute, said the issue is important because the international pullout requires foreign forces to train their Afghan counterparts to handle security duties for themselves.

"It is already a concern and reflects the changing nature of the role of our forces — British, American, and other ISAF nations," he said.

"They will be increasingly involved in training and mentoring Afghan forces, and to do that requires them to be in very close contact, which means it is very difficult to defend themselves," he added.

British lawmakers are concerned that the killings could sap the public's already fragile appetite for the war.

Cameron and Karzai on Thursday signed an agreement for 90 British military officials to staff an Afghan army officer training academy to be opened near Kabul. A total of 30 Danish, Australian and New Zealand soldiers also will staff the center, due to open before international forces leave at the end of 2014.

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