British defense secretary Philip Hammond visits Afghanistan
By Mirwais Adeel - Fri Feb 08 2013, 11:37 am
Defense secretary Philip Hammond met with the new Afghan defense minister Bismillah Mohammadi in capital Kabul and with British personnel at an observation post and
patrol base in Helmand province.
British ministry said he returned home on Thursday after a two-day visit to the country.
Hammond’s visit comes after British Prime Minister David Cameron hosted Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari for trilateral
talks on Afghanistan’s floundering peace and reconciliation process.
Attempts at peace have faltered even as international forces prepare to withdraw from the country in 2014.
British troops form the second-largest Nato contingent fighting to stop the Taliban insurgency ahead of the planned withdrawal.
The Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has said he is “optimistic” that talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government will begin in the coming months.
Speaking at a British patrol base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan that will soon be handed over to local troops, Mr Hammond said momentum was building towards a
process of negotiation.
Mr Hammond said the Afghan National Army was becoming more self-sufficient all the time. Between 15 and 20 British patrol bases have already been handed over to the