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Britain pledges Afghan aid despite British pullout

British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) speaks as Afghan President Hamid Karzai watches at a news conference in Kabul. (Reuters

Source : Associated Press
KABUL : Afghanistan | 05 Jul 2011

British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged Tuesday to maintain an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, promising to increase aid even as British troops begin to withdraw next year.

At a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Cameron also said Britain’s experience of drawing Irish Republican Army terrorists into Northern Ireland’s political process could guide Afghanistan’s own efforts to reconcile Taleban insurgents.

The British leader’s visit to Afghanistan was marred by the death Monday of a British soldier, who went missing from a checkpoint in the south and was later found with fatal gunshot wounds. The death was a “reminder of the high price that we have paid for the vital work we do in Afghanistan,” Cameron said.

Separately, the US-led international military coalition said four service members were killed Tuesday in eastern Afghanistan — three by a roadside bomb and one other in an insurgent attack. No other details were disclosed about the deaths, which raised the total killed so far this year to 280.

Standing outdoors with Karzai at the presidential palace, Cameron said will confirm to Parliament on Wednesday that about 500 of the 9,500 British forces will leave next year, and insisted all foreign troops would stick to a 2014 deadline to end their combat role. An additional 450 personnel, who were deployed on a temporary mission, also will be pulled back by February, Cameron said.

British troops are poised to leave, but Cameron vowed to increase Britain’s aid to Afghanistan and help build an elite military academy modeled on England’s famous Sandhurst. Karzai and Cameron agreed on plans for a military officer training academy in Afghanistan, to be staffed mainly by British personnel and accept 1,350 recruits a year starting in 2013.

Britain gave 102 million pounds ($164 million) of aid to Afghanistan between April 2010 and April 2011, and is expected to pay out 178 million pounds ($286.5 million) during the next 12 months.

“This is a great example of a country that if we walk away from, and if we ignore, if we forget about, the problems will come visited back on our doorstep,” Cameron said.

Cameron said aid spending on Afghanistan would help tackle problems of drugs trafficking, terrorism and extremism at their source.

“Even to people who are hardheaded and possibly even hardhearted about aid, I say the program we have in Afghanistan ... is good for people back home in Britain as well,” he said.

Karzai said he hoped Britain “could continue to help Afghanistan, to build up our infrastructure, build our civil society.” “While there will be a reduction of troops — some drastic, some not so drastic — the process of transition to Afghan authority must go on unhindered and unimpeded,” Karzai said.

On another issue, Karzai said Afghanistan would not retaliate against Pakistan’s five-week artillery barrage on their shared border. Karzai said a military response to Pakistan’s assault would harm civilians on the border.

Karzai said his government was involved in diplomatic talks he hoped would end the violence soon.

Cameron urged Afghanistan to draw on Britain’s experience of getting the IRA to join the political process in Northern Ireland.

“We are with you, we will help you, we know if you look at insurgencies the world over, they have usually been ended by a mixture of military means and political means,” he said. “It is very difficult to reconcile with people who have been killing your own soldiers or your own countrymen.” Cameron also delivered a lengthy message to the Taleban: “Stop killing. Stop bombing. Stop fighting. Put down your weapons. Join the political process and you can be part of the future of this country.” “I have seen it in my own country, in Northern Ireland,” he continued, “where people who were involved in trying to kill, to maim and bomb civilians and police officers, army personnel and even politicians have actually become politicians themselves and are involved in the governance of that country.”


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