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Hague says Afghanistan has a "bright future", with or without the Taliban at the discussion table

By Joseph Willits 
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Screen shot 2011-12-05 at 15.09.15At a conference in Bonn today to discuss the future of Afghanistan, William Hague said that despite the absence of both the Taliban and Pakistan at the discussion table being far from ideal, a "sustainable Afghanistan with strong national security forces that is able to look after its own security" is still possible.

The decision on whether or not "a political settlement with the Taliban or elements of the Taliban" is achievable "if they want it", said the Foreign Secretary.  The ideal scenario for discussion about Afghanistan's future and "the broadest possible political settlement would ... include the Taliban" continued Hague, "but if that is not attainable ... there can still be a brighter future for Afghanistan".

Hague described the killing of 24 officers and men by American warplanes, as an "unfortunate incident", which has led to Pakistan's boycott of this year's conference. He was optimistic however, that Pakistan's absence was only temporary:

"I don't think that means that in the longer term Pakistan is not taking part in the international deliberations about these matters"

The conference, Hague said, was about "looking to the future ... this is about the next decade and a lot of it is about what happens after 2015, after the transition to Afghan security control". The Foreign Secretary hailed the progress made, with "more than 60 countries represented here" saying:

"We are committed to Afghanistan for the long term’. Even when we’re not fighting there, we will be there with diplomacy, with trade, with aid, with training – and certainly the United Kingdom is committed to these things."

Asked whether Britain cared more about the future of Afghanistan than other countries, Hague once again stressed solidarity within the international community. This week, "an agreement with President Karzai on the enduring partnership between the United Kingdom and Afghanistan" would also be signed, said Hague.

Yesterday, in an interview with the Guardian, Britain's most senior commander in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General James Bucknall, emphasised the importance of Western countries assisting with Afghanistan's future:

"We almost owe it to those who have gone before to see the job through. Having made this investment in blood, I am more determined. If I didn't think we could do this I would take a very different view but I am confident we can do it."  

Speaking ahead of the conference, after holding a joint press conference with the German Foreign Minisiter Guido Westerwelle, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi apologised for the attack on the British Embassy in Tehran. In a statement issued by the German Foreign Ministry, Salehi said he "was deeply sorry for what has happened" and vowed "to do everything to prevent such an incident from happening again."

Writing in the Guardian's Global Security Blog, Julian Borger reports that one of the items stolen by protestors at the British Embassy in Tehran, was labelled "most secret", and contained details of a grand invasion plan.

A British diplomat said:

"We're hoping it takes the IRGC translators a good long time to realise the plans are 70 years old and talking about the invasion of France."

The British Government is set to seek £1million in compensation from Iran, for damages to the embassy in Tehran.

> Fiona Hodgson on Comment: Women's rights in Afghanistan are not negotiable



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