The former head of British forces in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp, has warned that the country's security situation cannot be dealt with in isolation.
His comments come after three cabinet ministers arrived in Kabul for talks with political leaders and the US commander of international forces.
One of the three, the Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, has told the Times newspaper that he wants British forces to return from Afghanistan "as soon as possible".
Dr Fox said Britain was in Afghanistan to protect its global interests, and "not for the sake of education policy in a broken 13th century country".
Col Kemp told the Today programme that "the priority, as Liam Fox says, is to deal with the security situation in Afghanistan, and to ensure that the streets of the UK and the rest of the world are safe... safer than they are at present.
"But in order to do that we must re-build and repair the society in Afghanistan, and that does include things like education policy, the economy, governance etc."
And he added that "we aren't going to turn Afghanistan into a functioning western-style society, but we can make improvements, and we can hopefully support the Afghan government in offering the Afghan people something the Taliban aren't able to offer them".
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