British Foreign Secretary David Miliband says there is no military solution to the spread of extremism in Pakistan's tribal areas or Afghanistan. He says the governments of both countries need to stop blaming each other for their problems and cooperate so that each nation can become a successful democracy. The foreign secretary's remarks came during a visit to Washington and VOA correspondent Meredith Buel has details.
Saying Pakistan and Afghanistan top the list of British foreign policy priorities, Miliband appeared to back moves by the leaders of both countries to reach out to insurgent groups.
Officials in Washington are expressing concern that the newly elected government in Islamabad is negotiating with pro-Taliban militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas or FATA.
U.S. officials are concerned a peace deal could allow the Taliban insurgents and al-Qaida terrorists time to regroup and plan attacks from their safe havens on the Afghan-Pakistani border.
Miliband says western countries have the right to express such concerns, but reconciliation efforts must still go forward.
"In both Afghanistan and in the FATA we need to accept that government reconciliation efforts will reach out to people we are uncomfortable with," said David Miliband. "We have a right and a duty to say clearly when we think the governments of Afghanistan or Pakistan are putting our forces in the region or our citizens at home at greater risk, making deals which leave extremists with too much freedom. But the process of reconciliation will be infinitely more legitimate and effective if it is locally owned."
Miliband says both Afghanistan and Pakistan need effective security forces to take on, with international help when necessary, those committed to violence.
But he says there is no military solution to extremism in either country.
"Over 800 members of the Pakistani security forces have been killed in the border areas since 2002," he said. "Yet in that time the extremist threat has grown. So we need to separate those determined to impose their views by force of arms from those willing to accept the freedoms and limits of the constitutional order."
Miliband says the governments in Pakistan and Afghanistan are too weak to provide adequate services to areas where militants operate and that compromises the security of both countries. So he urged the international community to help fund social service and educational programs that would strengthen the governments in Kabul and Islamabad.
Miliband says both democracies will be at risk if they do not forge a united front against terrorism.
"The final lesson that I want to mention is that Afghanistan and Pakistan need to stop blaming each other for their problems and recognize their shared interests that bring them together," said Miliband. "If the terrorist threat continued to be shunted back and forth across the Afghan-Pakistan border, then democracy will have little chance of success."
Miliband says democracy is not, as he put it, an overnight sensation. He says it sometimes takes decades or even hundreds of years to fully develop.