Miliband urges world leaders to up their game over Afghanistan
Published: 26th May 2012 17:12:41
The international community must "up its game" to secure a lasting political settlement for Afghanistan, the Labour leader Ed Miliband has said.
Speaking from Kabul, he said the best way to honour the sacrifice made by British troops was to ensure the country does not become a failed state.
"There is a lot more work to do to make that happen", Mr Miliband told the BBC.
He was joined on his second Afghan trip since becoming Labour leader by the shadow defence and foreign secretaries.
Mr Miliband met the Afghan president Hamid Karzai for talks at the British Embassay in Kabul.
The Labour leader's visit was kept secret for security reasons, and the trip was not reported until he left the capital.
Speaking outside the British Embassy, Mr Miliband paid tribute to the "extraordinary job" that British troops are doing in Afghanistan, but urged political leaders around the world to ensure the country has a stable future.
"Unless you have you stability in Afghanistan it could again become a home to terrorism, we do not want that to happen.
"I do not think we can just abandon Afghanistan, I do not think we can say: right, we are off.
"Investment in Afghanistan is important and will continue to be important, but the problem is the development part is not enough on its own... Part of the discussions... I will be having with the government leaders I meet today is to say, how are we going to drive this forward?" Mr Miliband said.
As part of his "solution" for Afghanistan, he urged Afghan tribal leaders to keep terrorist group Al Qaeda out of the country.
"People have to renounce Al Qaeda, and not work with Al Qaeda. In the end the way you succeed and the way you resolve conflicts is in part - and this is not so much for us but the Afghan government - resolving the issues with your enemies as well as your friends," he said.
In the early hours of Friday morning, Mr Milband flew into Camp Bastion - the main base for UK forces in Afghanistan - for the start of his brief trip.
He joined British troops for a traditional English breakfast of fried egg, beans and sausage.
The 9,500-strong British force will reduce to 9000 by the end of this year with combat operations set to finish by the end of 2014 at the latest.
Mr Miliband, accompanied by the shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy and Labour's foreign affairs spokesman Douglas Alexander, then flew by Chinook helicopter to Lashkah Gar, the first district in southern Helmand to transfer to full Afghan control.
At a control base in the Nari Saraj district, Mr Miliband met members of the 3rd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment, which lost five of its men in an explosion in March.
But Mr Miliband said he was "more optimistic" than expected, about the progress being made in training the Afghan army.
He said the main aim of the trip was to thank British forces: "It is incredibly eye-opening coming out and actually seeing what they are doing, throwing themselves in harm's way every day going out on patrol.
"Seeing it up close, with people who are young enough to be my son or daughter doing that, is incredibly humbling," Mr Milband added.
A total of 414 members of UK forces have died in Afghanistan since operations began in October 2001.
The Labour leader denied his trip to Afghanistan was simply a bid to boost his public image, saying his purpose in coming "is to express the deep sense of gratitude I have for our troops."
"We are working with the Government on many of these issues. Staying away and not coming here would send the wrong message to our troops.
"People are so used to politicians having argy-bargy with each other, opposing each other apparently for the sake of it.
"On this one that is not what we are doing and I think that's the right approach."
Mr Miliband said fresh laws may be needed to end discrimination at home against people who have worked for the armed forces.
The Labour leader said politicians should consider extending the sort of legal protection offered to racial, sexual and religious minorities if other ways could not be found to ensure serving and retired troops were treated fairly.
"It happens in terms of everything, from the availability of consumer credit to our troops to some of them outrageously being turned away from pubs and hotels. That should not be happening."
Mr Miliband called for cross-party talks to see if discrimination could be stamped out.
A recent poll commissioned by Lord Ashcroft suggested that more than one in five personnel had suffered verbal abuse while in uniform and almost as many, 18%, had been turned away from pubs and clubs.
Mr Miliband also ruled out breaking ranks with the government on the timetable of Britian's withrdrawl from Afghanistan, which was reaffirmed in a recent Nato summit in Chicago.
He insisted he would not be following the example of the new French President Francois Hollande, who will pull French troops out of Afghanistan earlier than planned.
"What is interesting about Afghanistan is that whether you were for the mission originally or against the mission, to suddenly up-sticks now would not be the right thing to do," Mr Miliband said.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Miliband urges world leaders to up their game over Afghanistan. [Online] (Updated 26 May 2012)
Available at: http://www.manchesterwired.co.uk/news.php/1431100-Miliband-urges-world-leaders-to-up-their-game-over-Afghanistan [Accessed 13th May 2013]
At 03:37:59 in OtherOne of Britain's most wanted fugitives is due in court in Madrid later after being arrested at a luxury villa on Spain's Costa Bla...
At 00:10:32 in BusinessIt is an exciting time of year to be a UK sports or music fan, with big cup finals and major name concerts coming thick and fast....
At 18:15:23 in OtherBangladesh has set up a panel to raise the minimum wage for more than three million garment workers, the minister for textiles has said....
At 11:52:59 in OtherOne of Britain's most wanted fugitives has been arrested on Spain's Costa Blanca....
At 10:50:47 in OtherA 17-year-old boy is fighting for his life after being attacked in Manchester city centre, police have said....
At 10:05:34 in OtherA man has been charged with escaping lawful custody after two people were allegedly sprung from a prison van....
At 00:05:36 in OtherStars from the world of TV are preparing for this year's Bafta Awards, with Olympic satire Twenty Twelve and BBC drama Accused among th...
At 10:45:43 in OtherA sheep once sold for slaughter is looking for a new home after turning up on a couple's patio. ...
At 09:33:20 in OtherThousands of football fans from Greater Manchester are making their way to London for the FA Cup final....
At 01:13:49 in OtherA memorial marking the 28th anniversary of the Bradford City football stadium fire, in which 56 people died, is to take place later....
News In Other Categories
Murder squad detectives have named a 51-year-old man who died after he was discovered stabbed in a Swansea road....
Eurozone finance minsters are due to meet in Brussels later to agree bailout payments for Cyprus and Greece....
Fifty years after The Spy Who Came in from the Cold made John le Carre an international bestseller, the acclaimed author spoke to the BBC ab...
Charities which help homeless people discharged from hospital are to get £10m to continue their work....
Foreign visitors to North Korea are allowed to attend sports matches alongside their minders. But football in this secretive republic has li...
One of Britain's most wanted fugitives is due in court in Madrid later after being arrested at a luxury villa on Spain's Costa Bla...