Assault won't scuttle peace process: Karzai
KABUL (PAN): President Hamid Karzai made clear on Saturday his government would press on with the reconciliation process, saying last week’s Taliban attack on his office would not disrupt the campaign.
At a joint news conference with visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron in Kabul, he said the attack on the heavily-fortified Presidential Palace would not deter his administration from the peace drive.
"We know what the people want: we want peace and stability in Afghanistan," said the president, who tended to downplay the incident. He asked the insurgents to spare the people and government institutions.
He said Washington wanted the bilateral security agreement (BSA) with Afghanistan to be inked in the next three months, even as his government suspended talks with Washington on June 19.
"President Barack Obama recently emphasised an agreement over the BSA until October," he said, explaining the negotiations remained suspended and Kabul had set conditions for signing the pact.
Kabul’s terms for signing the security accord included ensuring durable peace and stability in the country, he said, adding: "If our conditions are met, certainly the Afghans will ink the pact."
Some foreign countries, including Pakistan, were trying to fuel anarchy in Afghanistan by trying to promote a federal system there, the president alleged. He claimed such efforts had been ongoing over past six months, but the endeavours would not come to fruition.
However, Karzai said he had agreed with the British leader on the need for friendly relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan and that there should be no cross-border shelling. “We desire bilateral ties rooted in mutual respect.”
For his part, Cameron said Britain, enjoying cordial relations with Pakistan, had been in contact with the ally on how to make the Afghan-led peace process a success. A stable Afghanistan was in the interest of Pakistan, the UK and the world at large, he maintained.
“We want a democratic Afghanistan that is not a safe haven for terrorists, which doesn’t threaten our national security and is ruled by the Afghans themselves,” commented Cameron, who conferred with Karzai on the challenges ahead and the UK’s role post 2014.
During his visit to southern Helmand province, the prime minister said he found that Afghanistan had come a long way over the past few years. He noted there has been considerable progress in areas of military, social, health and education.
Pointing to signs of declining support to the Taliban, Cameron said he was satisfied with the election registration process. He called for inclusive and transparent polls to ensure political stability in the country.
Cameron said in unequivocal terms that Britain would have no military campaign in the war-torn country post 2014.
Earlier in the Day, Cameron told British troops in Helmand talks with the Taliban could have begun more than a decade ago. He acknowledged the settlement put in place after the 2001 ouster of the Taliban regime could have been better arranged.
During his unannounced visit to the province to mark Armed Forces Day, the premier said he had been pushing for a political process to begin ever-since his election in 2010. The process was now underway, he added.
Currently 7,900 UK troops are fighting the insurgents in Afghanistan, mainly in Helmand, but the number will decline to less than 5,200 by the end of 2013. So far, 444 British military personnel have been killed in Afghanistan.
"I think Armed Forces Day is just an opportunity to say a very big thank you but also to say how proud we are of our armed forces. I'm pleased to be here to make that point so many men and women have served in Afghanistan...” he told the troops.
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.