The British Prime Minister has said that the Taliban could play a role in the future government of Afghanistan as long as they lay down their arms.

David Cameron, on a state visit to Kabul, made a comparison between the Taliban potentially sharing power in Afghanistan with how former members of the Irish Republican Army’s Sinn Fein now have top political roles in Northern Ireland.

The message to the Taliban is stop fighting, stop bombing, stop killing,” Cameron said. “Join a political process and you can be part of the future of this country. I have seen it in my own country, in Northern Ireland, where people who were involved in trying to kill, maim and bomb civilians, police officers, Army officers and even politicians are now politicians themselves, involved in the governance of the country. It can happen.

For example, Martin McGuinness, the Sinn Fein deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, is a former IRA commander.

Cameron added: You [Taliban] cannot win this fight. You should give this up and join a political process. You are losing this fight. You are seeing your fellow Taliban members being killed in ever larger numbers, this will only continue. So you should give that up and join a political process.”

Speaking in Kabul after holding talks with President Hamid Karzai, Cameron said he wants to see more attempts to reconcile and reintegrate Taliban members into mainstream Afghan politics as the day will soon come when western forces will have completely withdrawn from the country.

While it has already become public knowledge that UK government officials have entered into peace talks with the Taliban, Cameron’s explicit offer to the Taliban to share power may come as a shock to the thousands of families who have lost friends and relatives to Taliban gunmen, including hundreds of British and NATO soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

Cameron also defended the decision by western countries to gradually pull their troops out of Afghanistan.

“The British people deserve a deadline,” he said. I do believe this is the right plan at the right time. I'm confident we are on track.