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Zardari: NATO 'losing war in Afghanistan'

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 03 August 2010

The international community is "losing the war against the Taliban" in Afghanistan, Pakistan's President has warned ahead of his arrival in London. A former Pakistani government minister tells Channel 4 News "there is sadly some truth to it".

Pakistan president due in London amid terror row (Reuters)

On the eve of his visit to the UK, Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari told Le Monde that the international community is "losing the war against the Taliban".

"The international community, to which Pakistan belongs, is in the process of losing the war against the Taliban," he said. "This is above all because we have lost the battle to win hearts and minds."

While he thought the Taliban had "no chance of regaining power", he said that "its grip is strengthening".

Zardari arrived on Tuesday for a five-day visit to the UK which will focus around talks with Prime Minister David Cameron at his Chequers home on Friday.

Former Pakistani government minister Tariq Azim Khan told Channel 4 News:  "There is sadly some truth to it. I think the United States and other allied forces recognise that sooner or later they will have to change their strategy and talk to the Taliban.

"You must remember that the Taliban and terrorists are two different things altogether."

It is already known that some American commanders on the ground have been talking to Taliban warlords that previously held government positions, but had been 'outed' in the wake of 9/11, he pointed out.

"Money has been allocated so that some of these (warlords) can be bought out," Khan said. 

"But when Pakistan talks to any of them we are told we should not be talking to them – it's a double game," he added.

Cameron sparked controversy last week on a visit to India saying that its in Pakistan should not be allowed to "promote the export of terror".

Zardari is expected to confront Cameron over the comments and ask for greater support in the talks this week - when the pair are also likely to discuss Mr Zardari's latest comments over the war in Afghanistan.  

A visit by Pakistan's intelligence agency was cancelled at the weekend while an effigy of Cameron was burnt on the streets of Karachi in protest at the comments. Yesterday Islamabad summoned a British envoy for diplomatic talks amid efforts to prevent the row overshadowing President Zaradi's European tour. 

Zardari has ignored domestic calls to cancel his trip to the UK, including from opposition leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who warned it would be "inappropriate and an insult to the sentiments of the Pakistani people".

Terrorism expert and analyst at political risk consultancy Janusian, James Blake, told Channel 4 News that Cameron would be looking to smooth things over this week to ensure that Pakistan and the UK could continue to work together to try to beat terror.

"In the UK, a huge proportion of the terror plots we see either originated or are connected to Pakistan," he said. "And the security services are very reliant on information passed on from the Pakistan intelligence services to help disrupt individuals and plots.

"The information Pakistan has on these individuals and groups is not something we have, so David Cameron has to build bridges this week."  

The visit comes amid as Pakistan faces its worst flooding for 80 years with up to three million people affected by the disaster. Aid agencies have put the current death toll at 1,400.

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A senior Pakistani official quoted in The Guardian newspaper said Zardari planned to press Cameron during their meeting on Friday to be "more careful in what he says".

"David Cameron has been doing some plain talking. Now Zardari will be doing the plain talking," the official told the newspaper.

"We have to tell him (Cameron) what the reality is, to educate him about what we have suffered, and that if we are not supported at this time, how things will get worse."

Zardari would press the prime minister to be "more forthright in supporting (Pakistani) democracy and more careful in what he says, especially in countries like India that are very hostile", he added.

Why the UK's relationship with Pakistan is "crucial" in the war against terror  

Prime Minister David Cameron's comments last week were part of a deliberate strategy, to establish better relationships with countries such as India which have the best trade prospects, writes terrorism expert James Blake.  

He has not apologised which further emphasises that this was not a gaffe.

But the relationship between Pakistan and the United Kingdom is absolutely crucial and I'm sure Cameron will recognise that and try to smooth things over.

In the UK, a huge proportion of the terror plots we see either originated or are connected to Pakistan. And the security services are very reliant on information passed on from the Pakistan intelligence services to help disrupt individuals and plots.

The information Pakistan has on these individuals and groups is not something we have, so David Cameron has to build bridges this week.  

We can't emphasise enough the threat the UK faces coming up to the Olympics. It is vital that there is a very strong relationship between the UK and Pakistan and that information and intelligence can be shared, over the movement of British Pakistani citizens there and back, and as various groups like Al Qaida and Lashkar-e-Taiba [blamed for the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai which killed 174 people] look to global attacks."

James Blake is an analyst at political risk consultancy Janusian.  

It has emerged that some British politicians of Pakistani origin have shunned an invitation to meet Zardari on Thursday. Labour's Khalid Mahmood and Lord Ahmed believe Zardari should be in Pakistan to support the flood relief effort.

Mr Mahmood said: "The issue is the huge environmental catastrophe that's going on - a lot of people are dying there.

"No matter what he can do or can't do, he should be there to try to support the people, not swanning around in the UK and France."

Downing Street has insisted that Cameron "stands by" his comments and will not apologise for the remarks made last week. A spokeswoman said the UK had "very good, strong relations" with Pakistan. She played down the burning of an effigy of Cameron in Karachi, saying: "Clearly people have a right to protest."

Zardari arrived in London from Paris on Tuesday after holding talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on security and economic issues as part of a three-day visit.

During his UK trip Zardari is expected to meet Home Secretary Theresa May, Education Secretary Michael Gove and Minister Without Portfolio Baroness Warsi. On Saturday Zardari will host a political rally in Birmingham to speak to members of the Pakistani community about the issues facing the country.

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