LONDON, (AP) – The U.S.-led coalition’s battle against the Taliban has already been lost because of its failure to win over the Afghan people, Pakistan’s president warned before talks with the British prime minister, who has accused Pakistan of exporting terrorism.
In an interview published online Tuesday by French daily Le Monde, President Asif Ali Zardari — widow of Benazir Bhutto — said the coalition “underestimated the situation on the ground and was not conscious of the scale of the problem” against the Taliban largely because “we have lost the battle to conquer the heart and soul” of the Afghan people.
Zardari, who was traveling from Paris to London on Tuesday, said long-term help was needed, and military reinforcements were only a small part of the solution.
The interview was conducted in English, but Le Monde said no English-language transcript was available.
Zardari was in Europe amid growing concern that some elements in Pakistan’s intelligence service and military maintain links to known terrorists. Wikileaks, the self-described online whistle-blower, recently posted leaked U.S. military documents that alleged Pakistan’s unwillingness to sever its historical ties to the Taliban and deny Taliban fighters sanctuary along the border between the two nations.
He rejected Cameron’s accusations about Pakistan, saying that it has sustained heavy losses in the fight against terrorism. Cameron’s comments sparked protests from Pakistani officials, and prompted the summoning of the British High Commissioner in Islamabad.
“I will look him (Cameron) in the face and say that the war on terror should bring us together and not oppose us,” Zardari said of his scheduled talks with Cameron on Friday. “I will explain to him that, in my opinion, it’s my country that has paid this war’s highest price in terms of human lives.”
In the Le Monde interview, Zardari said he would not allow Cameron’s allegations to sour Pakistan’s relations with Britain. The interview was in the Le Monde edition dated Wednesday, but was posted online Tuesday.
Zardari also dismissed questions about Pakistan’s links to the Taliban, and said the leaked documents alleging otherwise “are firstly about the United States’ action in Afghanistan.” He also distanced himself, noting the documents covered a period before his taking office.
“There are no such things as good Taliban and bad Taliban. Pakistan and its people are the victims of the terrorists,” he was quoted as saying.