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PM welcomes Taliban peace talks

Peace talks with the Taliban do not mean the West's security response in Afghanistan is weakening, Prime Minister David Cameron said.

Mr Cameron told the Commons the challenge was now for the Taliban to engage in peace talks.

He said 80% of Afghans live within 10km (6.2 miles) of healthcare and 130,000 children in the country are now in school.

Meanwhile, 50,000 new voters have registered for the forthcoming elections in Afghanistan, while the UK is contributing £4.5 million of aid to increase women's participation.

In a Commons statement, Mr Cameron said: "This progress in Afghanistan is a challenge to the Taliban. The combination of a successful build-up of the Afghan National Security forces, and progress on the ground, demonstrates that the way for a role in Afghanistan's future is not through terror and violence but only through engaging in a political process.

"I welcome plans to begin direct talks with the Taliban. The peace process must be Afghan-led but we should do all we can to support it. It does not signal any weakening of our security response but if we can persuade people that there is a legitimate political path for them to follow, we should do so."

Mr Cameron's comments came following a visit to the front line in Afghanistan at the weekend.

During the trip, which coincided with Armed Forces Day, Mr Cameron acknowledged that things could have been done differently after military operations removed the Taliban regime.

:: Taliban suicide attackers have exploded a truck bomb outside a Nato supplier's compound in Kabul and sprayed gunfire at security personnel, killing five guards and two civilians.

The attack was the latest in a series targeting high-profile locations in the Afghan capital. The attacks indicate the Taliban have no intention of ending the violence, even as they say they are willing to enter peace negotiations.

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