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Afghanistan's future must include the Taliban, says top former UK General

October 28th, 2014
12:08 PM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

Afghanistan’s political future needs to include the Taliban, a top former British General told CNN's Michael Holmes, in for Christiane Amanpour, on Monday.

“It's not for a soldier or even a retired soldier, I think, to get into what needs to be done politically. But if I can offer an opinion as Citizen Jackson rather than General Jackson, it would seem to me, in the long term, the politics of Afghanistan need to include those who call themselves the Taliban,” General Sir Mike Jackson, Former Chief of General Staff of the British Army, said.

Jackson’s comments come a day after Britain closed its last military base in Afghanistan, bringing an end to the 13-year-campaign that has claimed the lives of 445 British soldiers.

Assessing the possible future role of the Taliban is “beyond my experience,” the General added, but “it seems to me, only in that way will you encompass the big tent of Afghanistan as a whole and move on to that stable and secure Afghanistan, which we would all want for the Afghanis themselves and then in the wider world, in that very turbulent region. A stable Afghanistan, to me, is a must.”

Jackson led the British military from 2003 to 2006, as UK troops were stationed in Afghanistan and helped invade Iraq. He said he firmly believes the U.S.-led coalition left the country a better place than they found it.

“Go back to the autumn of 2000 and the immediate aftermath of 9/11. You had an authoritarian regime which gave succor to Al Qaeda. Hardly anybody was educated properly, least of all young girls. The rule of law was non-existent. Government was anything but representative. And to be fair - and I think people must be fair here - when you look at those various aspects of Afghan society now, it is undoubtedly better,” he said.

The situation in the country remains volatile despite the recent election of an internationally recognized President. The Taliban made territorial gains across Afghanistan this summer and violence marked Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai’s first month as the new leader.

Jackson acknowledged that security remains a concern, but seemed hopeful that the Afghani forces can handle it on their own as long as the coalition continues to show its support.

“The important thing is that - those coalition forces who stay after the end of the year are not in a combat role. They're in training, mentoring, supporting, probably some logistic help as well. And that, of course, has been the political point, certainly in the United Kingdom and I dare say in the United States and elsewhere,” he said.

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