Friday, 24 November 2017

Trump’s Afghanistan strategy bound to fail: Pakistan

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi

US President Donald Trump’s strategy for Afghanistan will meet the same fate as the plans of his predecessors, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said.

In an interview to Bloomberg, Abbasi said: “From day one we have been saying very clearly that the military strategy in Afghanistan has not worked and it will not work.” He added that there has to be a ‘political settlement’ to the issue. “That’s the bottom-line,” said the Pakistani PM.

Abbasi said that while his government supports the fight against terrorism, it won’t let the war in Afghanistan spill into Pakistan.

“We do not intend to allow anybody to fight Afghanistan’s battle on Pakistan’s soil,” Abbasi said. “Whatever has to happen in Afghanistan should be happening in Afghanistan,” he said, adding that Pakistan doesn’t harbour terrorists.

Pakistan’s civil and military leaderships are on the same page over the issue, as Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had made a similar statement in a meeting with his Afghan counterpart Gen Sharif Yaftali during a meeting in Dushanbe the other day.

Afghanistan’s government is slowly losing its hold over the country with the Taliban now controlling about 40% of the country, which US officials say could not have been possible without help from Pakistan’s military – a charge vehemently denied by Islamabad.

Pakistan Army has been conducting its own offensive against terrorists, with the latest operation in the Rajgal Valley of Khyber Agency concluding earlier this month. More than 60,000 people have been killed, while Pakistan’s economy has suffered a loss of about $120 billion from waging war at home against terrorists, according to the Federal Ministry for Finance.

President Trump caused an uproar in Pakistan after he called on the country to stop providing ‘safe havens’ to terrorists. He also pledged to increase US troop deployment in Afghanistan in a bid to stem Taliban militancy, which Washington has so far been unable to rein in in spite of costing the global superpower about 714 billion US dollars and several thousand lives.

Top US diplomat, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that Washington’s new strategy is intended to pressure the Taliban into negotiating with the Afghan government by “sending a message to the Taliban that we are not going anywhere”.

“I think the president’s been clear that this is a dramatic shift in terms of the military strategy,” Tillerson said on the ‘Fox News Sunday’ TV programme. He said US moves would be “dictated by conditions on the ground, informed by battlefield commanders”.

“The president was clear that he’s not setting any arbitrary timelines,” Tillerson said. “Our patience is not unlimited.”

Pakistan can’t bring Afghan war into its territory, Gen Bajwa tells Afghan army chief

General Qamar Javed Bajwa

The meeting of Quadrilateral Counter Terrorism Coordination Mechanism (QCCM) held at Dushanbe, Tajikistan on Sunday.

The meeting was attended by senior military leadership of member countries i.e. Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, General Li Zuocheng, General Sobirzoda Imomali Abdurrahim and General Sharif Yaftali.

Speaking on the occasion, General Qamar Javed Bajwa highlighted achievements of Pakistan in fight against terrorism for eliminating terrorists’ safe havens from its soil. He said that terrorism being a transnational threat can only be defeated through intelligence sharing and coordinated effective border management.

COAS Gen Bajwa assured his Afghan counterpart of his “fullest cooperation” but made it clear that “Pakistan cannot bring the Afghan war into Pakistan.” COAS said that Pakistan has already cleared all its areas indiscriminately and has started unilateral border security measures including fencing. Besides border security management other key factor for enduring peace is dignified repatriation of Afghan Refugees.

The COAS reassured Afghan side that Pakistan is open to any suggestion that facilitate peace in Afghanistan. In this spirit, he offered to form a Pak-Afghan Army working group to jointly work and formulate security recommendations for government level discussion aimed at addressing mutual concerns.

Afghan general agreed to the proposal and thanked COAS for his relentless efforts towards peace.

Earlier, the senior military leadership of China, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan had signed an outline for a cooperative mechanism at the QCCM meeting in Dushanbe. The mechanism will come into force after its endorsement by the respective governments.

Afghan Taliban US, Kabul’s problem, not Pakistan’s: Foreign Minister

khawaja-asif

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said on Sunday that Afghan Taliban were the US and Afghanistan’s problem, not Pakistan’s.

He added that Pakistan had suffered a great deal for being an ally of the US and the latter should stop pinning the blame for its own 16 years of failures on the former.

“If the US doesn’t trust us, it should repatriate Afghan immigrants in Pakistan itself,” he told reporters in Sialkot.

The minister said 0.2 million Pakistani troops were fighting against terrorists and thousands of soldiers had sacrificed their lives for this purpose. “Pakistan has managed to cleanse its land from terrorism,” he maintained.

Asif said US President Donald Trump’s recent remarks that Pakistan harboured terrorists were disturbing. “Pakistan has been a partner of the US in the war against terrorism and such statements undermine our efforts,” he remarked.

“We want to maintain good ties with the US and remove misunderstandings.”

The minister said Pakistan had hosted Afghan immigrants for 35 years. “We want peace in Afghanistan because that is essential for Pakistan. The US will have to work in collaboration with Pakistan to seek a solution to the Afghanistan issue,” he added.

Asif said 90 per cent of terrorist attacks in Pakistan were carried out on instructions from within Afghanistan.

“We have tried to make the Pak-Afghan border secure but stretch of around 650 kilometres has not been fenced by Afghanistan,” he noted.

Meanwhile, China has again reaffirmed its continuing support to Pakistan and vowed to further strengthen strategic friendship with it.

This was assured by Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi while talking to Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua in Beijing.

The Chinese foreign minister lauded Pakistan’s great sacrifices made in fight against terrorism and urged international community to fully recognize these efforts.

The foreign secretary, underlining the importance of Pakistan-China friendship, reiterated Pakistan’s support to China on all issues of its core interest. After President Trump accused Islamabad of harbouring militants, China defended Pakistan’s important role in Afghanistan.

Pakistan declines to host top US diplomat

Alice Wells

The tension between Pakistan and the United States has intensified as US Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells was asked by Islamabad to postpone her visit.

Foreign ministry officials told that Alice Wells was expected in Islamabad today (August 28) for a meeting with the civil and military leadership but she was asked to delay the visit for a “few days”.

US embassy spokesperson Richard Snesire also confirmed the development. “At the request of the government of Pakistan, Acting Assistant Secretary Wells trip has been postponed until a mutually convenient time,” he told. He added: “She was scheduled to come later in the week but that changed.”

Later, a foreign office statement said: “At the request of the government of Pakistan, the visit of the US delegation has been postponed until a mutually convenient time.”

The State Department and Pakistan’s foreign ministry did not give a reason for postponing the visit, which would have been the first high-profile visit by a US official since President Donald Trump’s speech last week on the way forward in the 16-year-old Afghanistan War.

According to the Reuters news agency, US officials working in Pakistan have been on high alert since Monday’s speech of President Trump.

Alice Wells was expected to discuss President Donald Trump’s new Afghanistan policy with the Pakistani leadership. This would have been Alice Wells’ second visit to Pakistan in the current month.

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