KABUL - British Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday Taliban could have a future as part of a government, as former militants did in Northern Ireland, but warned that those who did not lay down arms risked being killed. Speaking alongside President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, Cameron said Britain would also step up aid to Afghanistan as troops were gradually withdrawn and unveiled plans for a new British Sandhurst-style academy to train Afghan army officers. "I've seen it in my own country, in Northern Ireland, where people who were involved in trying to kill, maim, and bomb civilians, police officers, army personnel, and even politicians, have actually become politicians themselves," Cameron said.
"You are losing this fight," he said, referring to the militants who have been battling foreign forces and Karzai's government since they were ousted in late 2001.
"You are seeing your fellow Taliban members being killed in ever larger numbers, this will only continue. So you should give that up and join a political process," Cameron said.
Britain, which has about 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, has long argued that only a political settlement can end almost a decade of fighting.
While foreign politicians and military commanders have also trumpeted recent security gains, particularly in the south of the country, the insurgency has shown little sign of abating.
Cameron said 426 British troops would be withdrawn this year. He is due to give details in the British parliament on Wednesday of a "modest" withdrawal for 2012 from the core 9,500-strong force.
This is part of a plan to cease all combat operations and withdraw most British troops by the end of 2014.
Cameron said Britain would increase its aid to Afghanistan and warned of the dangers of neglecting the country after all foreign troops had left.
"This is a great example of a country that if we walk away from and if we ignore and if we forget about, the problems will come visited back on our doorstep," he said.
"How do we know this? Because we've done it before, we walked away from Afghanistan in the past."
Cameron also said he had discussed a plan with Karzai to build an Afghan military officer academy modeled on Britain's prestigious Sandhurst academy.
"This will involve around 120 British troops, it will also involve other nations, and the Americans themselves will be putting $38 million into this initiative," he said. (Reuters)