PM Says Hasty Int'l Withdrawal From Afghanistan Will Be Unwise; Warns Against 'regional Spoilers'

PM says hasty int'l withdrawal from Afghanistan will be unwise; warns against 'regional spoilers'

NEW YORK, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 27th Sep, 2020 ) :Warning against the designs of "regional spoilers", Prime Minister Imran Khan has urged the Afghan leadership and the Taliban to "work together" toward a political settlement that will bring peace in the war-ravaged Afghanistan.

In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, he also said that a hasty international withdrawal from Afghanistan would be "unwise" and cautioned against setting unrealistic timelines.

"All those who have invested in the Afghan peace process should resist the temptation for setting unrealistic timelines. A hasty international withdrawal from Afghanistan would be unwise," the prime minister wrote in the leading US daily newspaper.

"We should also guard against regional spoilers who are not invested in peace and see instability in Afghanistan as advantageous for their own geopolitical ends," he added.

Imran Khan said the path leading to the intra-Afghan was not easy but "we were able to press on thanks to the courage and flexibility that were on display from all sides".

He pointed out that the United States and its allies had facilitated the prisoner exchange which the Taliban had linked to resumption of the peace talks while both the Afghan government and the Taliban had "responded to the Afghan people's yearning for peace".

The first-ever Afghan government-Taliban negotiations started in Doha, Qatar, on September 12, with Afghan officials and Taliban commanders expressing optimism to end the 19-year-old conflict.

"We will undoubtedly encounter many challenges in the talks over the coming days, weeks and months," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said, as he called for the Afghan government and the Taliban to "seize this opportunity" to secure peace.

Last week, President Donald Trump said there would be fewer than 5,000 American troops in Afghanistan by US Election Day in November, signaling that the United States would continue to withdraw troops from the country despite limited progress toward the start of peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

"We're going down to 4,000, we're negotiating right now," Trump said in an interview with Axios, an online news service.

In his article, the prime minister said the intra-Afghan negotiations were "likely to be even more difficult, requiring patience and compromise from all sides".

"Progress could be slow and painstaking; there may even be the occasional deadlock, as Afghans work together for their future. At such times, we would do well to remember that a bloodless deadlock on the negotiating table is infinitely better than a bloody stalemate on the battlefield," he said.

"Pakistan will continue to support the Afghan people in their quest for a unified, independent and sovereign Afghanistan that is at peace with itself and its neighbours.

"Pakistan believes that peace negotiations should not be conducted under coercion and urges all parties to reduce violence. Just as the Afghan government has recognized the Taliban as a political reality, it is hoped that the Taliban would recognize the progress Afghanistan has made.

" The prime minister also emphasized the need to start planning for what would happen in post-war Afghanistan. "How can the world help a post-war Afghanistan transition to sustainable peace? How do we create conditions that will enable the millions of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, and other countries, to return to their homeland with dignity and honour?" He also spoke about the price that Pakistan had paid for the conflict in Afghanistan. "Through decades of conflict, Pakistan has dealt with the responsibility of taking care of more than four million Afghan refugees. Guns and drugs have also flowed into our country. The wars have disrupted our economic trajectory and radicalized fringes of our own society." The prime minister said decades of conflict had taught them two lessons. "First, that we were too closely intertwined with Afghanistan by geography, culture and kinship for events in that country not to cast a shadow on Pakistan. We realized Pakistan will not know real peace until our Afghan brothers and sisters are at peace.

"We also learned that peace and political stability in Afghanistan could not be imposed from the outside through the use of force.

"Only an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led reconciliation process, which recognizes Afghanistan's political realities and diversity, could produce a lasting peace," he said.

"So," the PM said, "when President Trump wrote to me in late 2018 to ask for Pakistan's assistance in helping the United States achieve a negotiated political settlement in Afghanistan, we had no hesitation in assuring the president that Pakistan would make every effort to facilitate such an outcome and we did.

"Thus began arduous rounds of talks between the United States and the Taliban, which culminated in the February US-Taliban peace agreement. This agreement, in turn, has laid the groundwork for talks between the Afghan leadership and the Taliban.

Underlining Pakistan's contribution in the fight against terrorism, he said,"More than 80,000 Pakistani security personnel and civilians have laid down their lives in perhaps the largest and most successful fight against terrorism." However, Pakistan continued to be the target of attacks launched by "externally enabled terrorist groups based in Afghanistan," he said.

"We hope the Afghan government will take measures to control ungoverned spaces inside its territory from where terrorist groups are able to plan and carry out attacks against the Afghan people, the international coalition forces stationed in Afghanistan, and other countries in the region, including Pakistan," PM Khan wrote.

"Like the United States, we do not want the blood and treasure we have shed in the war against terrorism to be in vain."Pakistan, he added, was "committed to multilateral collaboration" to achieve peace and stability in the region.

"The first step toward that peace has been taken in Doha," PM Khan said. "Not seeing through the Afghanistan peace process or abandoning it for any reason would be a great travesty."