“Security concerns” behind withdrawal of British military advisers: Hague

British Foreign Secretary Minister William Hague (C) is escorted by security personnel during his visit to a court house in Benghazi. Upon his return to London from a trip to the Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said that UK was committed to working with Pakistan. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON: The request for withdrawal of eighteen British military advisers from Pakistan had been based on security concerns and was understandable said British Foreign Secretary William Hague. It was a difficult situation, he said, and the withdrawal would not affect the ‘Enhanced Strategic Dialogue’ between the two nations.

The British military advisers were reportedly part of a £15 million programme to train Pakistan’s Frontier Corps which began last August and was scheduled to run until at least summer of 2013.

The British Foreign Secretary was speaking to the press following his recent tour of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Afghanistan visit, he said, reinforced his government’s support for Afghan led reconciliation and he also welcomed the initiatives between Afghanistan and Pakistan in this regard. The framework for greater co-operation between the countries now exists, he said, and we understand that Pakistan can play a great role with regard to reconciliation efforts.

In response to a question regarding the alleged involvement of certain Pakistan army officers with the Hizbut Tahrir, Mr Hague responded that the British government was keeping a close eye on the activities of the Hizbut Tahrir in Britain. However, before banning an organisation the government required sufficient evidence that the ban would be legally sustainable, he said.

Before coming into power the Conservative Party repeatedly called for Hizb to be outlawed and criticised the previous Labour government for failing to introduce a ban. After over a year in government the Tories have also failed to ban the Islamist organisation.

Describing his discussions with Pakistan’s acting foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Mr Hague said that he had reiterated Britain’s commitment to an enhanced relationship with Pakistan which included increased trade and a focus on getting more than 4 million Pakistani children into school. Recognising the huge military effort Pakistan has made in the fight against terrorism he said that “it is like 9/11 every year in Pakistan”. However he said Pakistan needed to “work closer with the US and UK in fighting terrorism”.

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