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UK denies 'buying off' Taliban

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, Jan 28, IRNA -- Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth has denied that Britain was bribing Taliban insurgents to stop them attacking UK troops in Afghanistan.

“We won’t win this by military means alone, but we are not buying off Taliban warlords,” Ainsworth said in reference to plans being discussed at the London conference on Afghanistan to establish a "reintegration fund".

“There is an Afghan led programme reaching out to low level Taliban fighters offering them an alternative and a route back into normal life,” he said.

Britain’s defence secretary was answering questions in a webcast on the sidelines of London Conference on Afghanistan, in which he also denied that the real reason NATO was in Afghanistan was for its strategic importance, including securing oil pipeline from Russia.

“This is not about oil. Afghanistan is a mountainous country in the middle of the Asian land mass. The people are poor. They have been ravaged by war for 30 years and that is why they fell prey to the Taliban,” Ainsworth said.

“There is no economic benefit to us. It’s about our security,” he insisted, while also acknowledging that the general public has misunderstood why British troops are deployed there.

“It is sometimes difficult to convince people that Afghanistan is a direct threat to our security back here in the UK, but I firmly believe that it is,” the defence secretary said.

“If Afghanistan lapsed back into Taliban control as it was in the past it is highly likely that Al Qaeda could once again find safe haven and the ability to attack us and destabilise the region,” he warned.

Ainsworth was also challenged in the webcast on whether there was any real hope of helping to create a lasting and meaning peace, when Afghanistan has a long history of being a wartorn country.

“In the past people have tried to conquer Afghanistan and subjugate the people, that is why they’ve failed. Our forces are there in order to bring about stability and help the Afghans to stand on their own feet,” he said.

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End News / IRNA / News Code 925341



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