“It is obvious, the Haqqani network is behind the attacks in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan, therefore we are holding talks with Pakistan to convince Pakistani officials to take tougher action against the Haqqani network in Pakistan. We need to hold talks with Pakistani officials on ISI’s possible links with the Haqqani network. We need more cooperation to deal with this menace. The US authorities have changed their previous harsh stance towards Pakistan. What is significant is a joint war against the insurgents in the region. It is clear that there are insurgent groups in Pakistan infiltrating Afghanistan and vice versa. Instability in the region can affect both Afghanistan and Pakistan. I think the accusations against Pakistan should be assessed. Pakistan can play a key role in finding an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan. Pakistan and Afghanistan should have a frank dialogue,” British Ambassador William Patey said.
He denied commenting on the Pakistani government’s support for Haqqani network.
“This issue is not clear. I am not getting into the Pakistani government’s relations with the Haqqani network. Speculating about this issue could not be correct. We need confidence-building between Afghanistan and Pakistan to put and end to the activity of the Haqqani network’s insurgents in the region.”
Asked whether the UK government has evidence about Pakistan’s support for insurgents, the British ambassador said that obviously the Taleban have bases in Pakistan’s border areas, but Pakistani forces are engaged in battles with them.
He added: “Pakistanis say they do not have full control over some areas in Pakistan’s tribal belt. They are fighting insurgents there.”
As to why the NATO forces are not taking action against insurgents on the other side of the border [in Pakistan] William Patey said that they have carried out some joint raids against specific targets [in Pakistan].
“It will not be a good idea to get engaged in fighting with Pakistan. I don’t think such a move could resolve the Afghan issue. Terrorists have bases not only in Pakistan, but they are also operating and have bases in Afghanistan. I do not rule out insurgents’ presence on both sides of the border. There is no disagreement on joint cooperation and fighting terrorists’ networks in the region,” he said.
Touching on the issue of a possible US military operation inside Pakistan, the British envoy said that the British forces would not take part in any possible unilateral US military action against Pakistan.
Asked about his stance about the Afghan president’s remarks on backing Pakistan if it were attacked by the US, William Patey said that the Afghan president’s remarks conveys a message to Pakistan that Afghanistan’s strategic agreement with the US should not be regarded as a threat against Pakistan.
**Afghan peace talks
**The UK envoy supported the Afghan president’s stance on holding peace talks with the Pakistani government rather than with the Taleban, after the assassination of the chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council, Borhanoddin Rabbani.
He said: “The Afghan president sent a signal to the Taleban, after Rabbani’s assassination, telling them that government is no more willing to hold talks with them, unless they are fully ready. Wars end through dialogue.”
He went on to say that they had contacts with the Taleban members coordinated with the Afghan government in order to ensure stability in Afghanistan.
“I have had interactions with Mullah Zaeef [former Taleban ambassador to Pakistan]. Mullah Zaeef and a publisher of his book were in London. On his visit to London, we prepared the ground for a meeting between Mullah Zaeef and some officials. I met Mullah Zaeef in London. We sent messages to the Taleban, telling them that we are ready for talks with them,” he said.
**Second Bonn conference on Afghanistan
**William Patey expressed optimism about the upcoming second Bonn Conference on Afghanistan.
“We will reiterate our commitments to support the Afghan government and the Afghan forces after 2014 at the Bonn conference. Our objective at the Bonn conference is to show that the end of our combat mission and departure of our forces from Afghanistan in 2014 is not an end of all our missions in Afghanistan - we will only change the method of our cooperation with Afghanistan. We will continue our training role in Afghanistan after our troops’ drawdown. We will remain in Afghanistan to support and improve Afghanistan’s education, health care and governance sectors.”
**Corruption in Afghan government
**The British ambassador called for joint struggle against corruption in Afghanistan.
“Some decisions of the Kabul conference, including spending international aid through the Afghan government have not been successfully implemented, because of Afghanistan’s poor financial system and the Kabul Bank crisis. The British government also did not provide financial aid directly to the Afghan government,” he said.
He added that the government had made progress in resolving the Kabul Bank crisis, preparing the ground for the IMF to resume its aid to Afghanistan. Touching on corruption in the Afghan government the British ambassador said that the Afghan government should fulfill its commitments made at the Kabul international conference, on tackling corruption in the government institutions.
“We are also cooperating with the Afghan government in fighting corruption. It is a bilateral process,” he said.
**British-Afghan strategic agreement and British troops’ role in Afghanistan
**Asked whether Britain is willing to sign a strategic agreement with Afghanistan, Willian Patey said that they were negotiating with the Afghan government a long-term strategic cooperation agreement.
“We are close to reaching agreement. Such agreement would give confidence to the Afghan people that we are not leaving them,” he answered.
He went on to say that the British government has decided to reduce the number of British forces in Afghanistan.
“We have had 10,000 British troops here cooperating with the Afghan people over the past ten years. We will commence reducing the number of our forces - their gradual departure will begin this year. The UK prime minister has announced that they will pull out 400 soldiers this year and 500 soldiers in the coming year. No British combat troops will remain Afghanistan after 2014,” the British ambassador said.
He denied a WikiLeaks’ report about the Afghan president’s criticism of British forces in Sangin District of southern Helmand Province.
He said: “The Afghan president has not shared such a thing with me, but the Afghan president has told me that British forces were able to stabilize the areas under their control in Helmand. We did not have a sufficient number of soldiers in Helmand, therefore US army units were deployed in some parts of Helmand Province. It is a joint mission. You cannot say the American forces are better than the British troops.”
On the issue of a British military commanders’ peace deal with the Taleban in Musa Qala District of Helmand Province three years ago, William Patey said that such things happen.
He added: “We did not have enough troops in Musa Qala to stabilize the area. We have increased the number of our troops in Helmand now, broadening our cooperation with the Afghan forces. The points you raised about Musa Qala is a three-year-old story. The improvements in Helmand are the result of our joint efforts in cooperation with the Afghans.”
**Poppy cultivation in Helmand
**The British ambassador said that presence of British troops in Helmand has nothing to do with the rising poppy cultivation in that province. He added that it is a joint challenge facing the Afghan government and international community.
“You should judge differently, you should take our efforts in preventing poppy cultivation over the past years into consideration. It is not an easy task to eradicate poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. The Taleban are deliberately supporting poppy cultivation in Afghanistan in order to fund their war against our forces and the government of Afghanistan,” he added.
He went on to say that the Afghans should themselves deal and resolve their challenges that are part of the legacy of three decades of war.
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