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Taliban chief rejects Miliband overtures

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 27 July 2009

As two more British soldiers are killed in Afghanistan, senior Taliban commander Sirajuddin Haqqani tells Channel 4 News the British only want to talk because they are "feeling the pain from heavy losses".

David Miliband (picture: Reuters)

Speaking to Channel 4 News exclusively from an undisclosed location, Haqqani rejected the presence of moderates in the Taliban.

He said: "Those who have stopped their Jihad are infidels. They are living a luxurious life and have no right to call themselves Taliban.

"Those struggling to liberate their homeland from occupation forces... will never talk to US or British forces when we are winning on the battlefield.

"We have a clearcut stance on negotiations. The Taliban will stop fighting and talk when the US-led forces and the British government announce they are leaving Afghanistan."

Earlier today Foreign Secretary David Milliband spoke about the need to talk to the more moderate factions of Taliban and exploit the divisions amongst them. His words were overshadowed by the deaths of two more British soldiers in Afghanistan.

Miliband called on the authorities to offer incentives to persuade insurgents who were motivated by opportunity rather than ideology to switch sides.

His speech to Nato in Brussels comes as the ministry of defence announced that the first stage in a major assault on the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, which has resulted in a high number of British casualties, is now over.

In the speech, Mr Miliband spoke about the importance of supporting the Afghan government and the military campaign.

He said: "The further development of the Afghan security forces is vital. By the end of 2011 we will have trained and equipped 134,000 members of the Afghan national army, up from 90,000 today.

"Alongside them will be a 97,000-strong police force, up from 80,000 today, guarding key facilities and institutions, manning checkpoints and tackling civil unrest.

"These capacity-building efforts must continue. Indeed they should be accelerated.

"But, alongside security forces, Afghans look for the basics of authority. That means effective governors in each of the country’s 34 provinces and the appointment by them of credible leaders of the 364 districts.

"But also local governance that is credible, competent and clean, properly resourced and supported from Kabul, and works with the grain of tribal structures and history. It is not possible to overstate the importance of these appointments."

The foreign secretary told Channel 4 News: "If they (the Taliban) carry on trying to kill British troops then, of course, we can't reconcile them into the system.

"And remember, the leader of the faction that is attacking British troops at the moment is an internationally labelled by the UN terrorist. And he has made his choice because he is ideologically committed to a global jihadist viewpoint.

"The point of my speech today is that there are conservative Pashtun nationalists who are not committed to global jihad. They just have a particular view of how their own locality should be government - and that is a critical division."

But David Miliband ruled out talks with Taliban warlord Mullah Omar: "No, Mullah Omar is named in Resolution 1267 of the UN as an international terrorist.  He's made his choice for global jihad, he's made his choice to attack both our troops and Afghan troops.

"However the Afghan government needs to make clear the rules under which it will draw people within an inclusive political settlement."

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence has named the soldier who died while on a vehicle patrol in Lashkar Gah District, central Helmand province on Saturday morning as Bombardier Craig Hopson, 24, from Castleford, West Yorkshire, who was serving with the 40th Regiment Royal Artillery (The Lowland Gunners).

He was the 20th British serviceman to die in Afghanistan this month.

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Richardson, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: "He was one soldier, who was here for one cause, to help the Afghan people.

"This true hero paid the ultimate sacrifice and his memory will live with us forever. We mourn his loss and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this very sad time."

Since the start of operations in 2001, 189 British service personnel have died.

Last week the head of the armed forces warned that British troops in Afghanistan faced more tough fighting - and more casualties - in the weeks ahead.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the chief of the defence staff, said soldiers taking part in the Operation Panther's Claw offensive had faced an "enormous battle" to break through the Taliban defences.

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