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Qaeda threat from Pakistan, Afghanistan has reduced: UK

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* British PM says more British soldiers could die still
* Afghan insurgency needs political, not just military solution

LONDON: British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday said the threat from al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan had reduced, but progress could still be undone and warned more British troops would be killed in Afghanistan.

Reporting to the British parliament after his first trip to Afghanistan, Cameron said although combined efforts of international and Afghan forces and of Pakistani forces on the other side of the border had led to significant progress, “political surge” was needed in the country.

“Today I am advised that the threat from al Qaeda from Afghanistan and Pakistan has reduced,” he said.

“But I am also advised that if it were not for the current presence of United Kingdom (UK) and international forces, al Qaeda would return to Afghanistan and the threat to the UK would rise,” he said.

Cameron highlighted progress in boosting the Afghan National Army, telling legislators that 17,000 new recruits had joined the ranks in six months until March 2010, an increase of almost 20 percent.

However, he said the Afghan police were assessed to be ineffective or barely able to operate in six of the 13 provinces covered by US General Stanley McChrystal’s strategic plan for Afghanistan.

Cameron stressed that efforts to bolster Afghanistan’s own security forces were crucial to the international coalition’s overall strategy, along with military efforts to oust Taliban fighters from villages and towns.

Military action: He said there would be no solution to the Afghan conflict by military means alone.

“Insurgencies usually end with political settlements, not military victories, and that is why I have always said that we need a political surge to accompany the military one,” he said.

Getting individual Taliban fighters to put down their weapons was a first step, Cameron said, but long-term stability depended on a wider reconciliation process.

He said he had agreed on this with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who plans to reach out to insurgents to try to bring an end to the conflict, during his visit last week. Cameron said he would double the operational allowance British soldiers received while on active service in the country.

TTP offers ‘deal’ to Punjab government

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Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: A Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman has said that the organisation would stop targeting public and government places in Punjab if the provincial government gave an assurance that the Taliban would be spared from any action, a private TV channel reported on Monday.

Talking to the channel, Mohmand Agency Ameer Abdul Wali alias Umar Khalid, who is also the deputy of TTP chief Hakeemullah Mehsud, offered the Punjab government a conditional end to its activities in the province.

The offer comes after a statement by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif where he said, “Musharraf planned a bloodbath of innocent Muslims at the behest of others only to prolong his rule, but the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) opposed his policies and rejected dictation from abroad, thus the Taliban are fighting for the same cause and should not carry out acts of terror in Punjab.”

However, the Punjab CM on Monday said his remarks were misinterpreted and taken out of context. He said that it was a matter of record that he had always talked about Pakistan and had stated on numerous occasions in support of all victims of terror, especially the people of NWFP, “who were bearing the brunt of the terrorist attacks”.

The CM also said the Pakistan Army was fighting for the survival of the country and it was necessary for all political parties and politicians to rise above factional and parochial interests to root out terrorism. “Similarly, there is a need for closer contacts between intelligence agencies of the provinces and the centre,” he said.

Written by rohitkumarsviews

March 16, 2010 at 7:28 am