1. ITV Report

Defence Secretary 'optimistic' talks with Taliban will start soon

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond Photo: ITV News

The Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has said he is "optimistic" that talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government will begin in the coming months.

Speaking at a British patrol base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan that will soon be handed over to local troops, Mr Hammond said momentum was building towards a process of negotiation.

ITV News' International Correspondent John Irvine reports from Camp Bastion in Helmand Province:

I think there’s quite a lot of reaching out with messages to the Taliban.

At the same time they’re felling a little bit of pressure coming from the Pakistanis to engage in the process and I think we’re all optimistic that we will see the start of some meaningful political dialogue over the coming months.

– Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Defence
British troop sorting through old bullet casings at Camp Bastion Credit: ITV News

For British troops, the long campaign in Afghanistan is drawing to a close and the mammoth task of repatriating military equipment has begun.

Mr Hammond said the Afghan National Army was becoming more self-sufficient all the time. Between 15 and 20 British patrol bases have already been handed over to the Afghans.

But he stressed that a political dialogue with the Taliban would be vital for the long-term peace of the country and the eventual reintegration of militants.