Posts Tagged ‘ Afghan Border ’

Pakistan: US Participation a Must in Russia-initiated Afghan Talks

As Reported by Ayaz Gul for The Voice of America

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN —
Pakistan says that Russia-sponsored international talks on Afghanistan must involve the United States for bringing peace to the war-riven country, because Washington is the “biggest stakeholder” there.

Moscow plans to host this week (April 14) a new expanded round of multi-nation “consultations” it has recently launched with the stated goals of developing a “regional approach” for promoting Afghan security and a government-led national reconciliation with the Taliban.

But the U.S. administration has already refused to take part in the conference, questioning Russian intentions and motives.

Speaking to a local television station before the Moscow talks, the Pakistani prime minister’s foreign policy aide, Tariq Fatemi, stopped short of admitting the absence of Washington will not allow the multi-nation process to achieve its mission.

“They [U.S] have their troops present [in Afghanistan], they have invested one trillion dollars there, they are the biggest stakeholder, they have lost hundreds of their soldiers, so they have their interests there,” Fatemi explained.

While Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, China, India were represented in the last round of talks in Moscow earlier this year, former Soviet Central Asian states have been invited for the first time to attend the April 14 conference.

“We hope and desire that when any such peace initiative will enter into a next stage, America will have to be made part of it,” Fatemi told Aaj TV when asked whether the Russian-initiated process could bring peace to Afghanistan without Washington.

Pakistan believes Russia is “positively” using its influence with the Taliban to encourage them to join peace talks and Islamabad is supportive of any such efforts, Fatemi insisted.

“Russia has told us its major concerns are that if civil war conditions are there in Afghanistan, it can become a center for terrorist organizations like Islamic State, or Daesh, who will then try to infiltrate into bordering Central Asian states,” the Pakistani official explained.

The Taliban’s attacks on rival IS fighters in a bid to prevent them from establishing a foothold in the country apparently encouraged Russia to support the insurgent group. But Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday again warned Moscow against maintaining contacts with the Taliban.

“Anyone who thinks they can help themselves by helping the enemy of their enemy is mistaken. Anyone who thinks that they can differentiate between good and bad terrorism is mistaken,” Ghani said.

Speaking at a news conference in Kabul, Ghani acknowledged Russia is also threatened by terrorism and sympathized with victims of recent terrorist attack in that country.

“We have an intense dialogue with all our interlocutors because a stable Afghanistan is to everybody’s benefit and unstable Afghanistan hurts everyone,” Ghani said when asked whether Kabul plans to attend Moscow talks on Friday. He added he wants Afghanistan “as a center of cooperation” in all efforts aimed at stabilizing his country.

The Russian foreign ministry, while regretting Washington’s refusal to attend the coming talks, had also underscored the United States is an “important player” in settling the Afghan conflict.

“So [the United States] joining the peacekeeping efforts of the countries of the region would help to reinforce the message to the Afghan armed opposition regarding the need to stop armed resistance and to start talks,” it maintained.

Meanwhile, Fatemi said Pakistan has also stepped up diplomatic efforts to ease tensions with Afghanistan and is seeking implementation of a proposed mechanism the two sides agreed to in talks last months that were mediated by Britain.

The mechanism, he explained, would allow establishment of a “channel of communication at different levels” between Islamabad and Kabul to help remove “any misunderstanding” and deal with any terrorist incident on either side of their shared border.

“Talks [between the two countries] at the Army level and at different other levels are currently underway, and at a final stage, if needed, foreign ministers of the two countries will also engage in frequent meetings,” Fatemi said.

Afghanistan and Pakistan each deny allegations they harbor and support anti-state militants engaged in terrorist attacks on their respective soils. Tensions have lately risen because of Islamabad’s unilateral border security measures to prevent terrorist infiltration.

Kabul disputes portions of the 2,600-kilometer border between the two countries and is opposed to fencing them, saying it will further add to problems facing divided families.

Nominee Questions Pakistan’s Battle Plan

By Julian E Barnes for The Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON—The Marine general chosen by President Barack Obama to lead the Afghanistan war raised doubts about Pakistan’s willingness to go after militants who cross the Afghan border to attack U.S. and allied troops.

In a confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Lt. Gen. John Allen also said he believed that the Afghan insurgency’s momentum has been halted and even reversed in key parts of the country, and backed Mr. Obama’s troop drawdown plans.

But Pakistan, as a haven for militants, looms large over the war in Afghanistan. Gen. Allen said Pakistan continues to “hedge” against a precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan by supporting anti-American militant groups, including the Haqqani network.

The statements were a rare public show of military skepticism about Pakistan’s intentions, reflecting the military’s increasing view that relations with Pakistan are deteriorating.

Gen. Allen, deputy commander of the U.S. Central Command, argued that it would be ultimately in Islamabad’s interest to expel militant groups from their sanctuaries in Pakistan.

“We will encourage and will continue to encourage our Pakistani friends to bring pressure to bear upon those safe havens,” he said. “It’s not just good for the outcome of our strategy and for the president’s vision on the outcome in Afghanistan; it’s good for Pakistan as well.”

Appearing alongside Gen. Allen, Adm. William McRaven, nominated to lead Special Operations Command, also said Pakistan is unlikely to move against the frontier militant havens anytime soon.

The admiral oversaw the Navy SEAL team that last month killed Osama bin Laden at his hideout in a Pakistani garrison town.

The officers’ testimony shined a light on the fragile state of U.S.-Pakistan relations, which have grown combative in the wake of the bin Laden raid.

Military leaders have made plain they are displeased with the declining cooperation by Pakistan, but insist the U.S. can’t walk away from the relationship.

“We’re giving them $4 billion,” said Sen. Scott Brown (R., Mass.). “And yet sometimes we don’t know if they’re in or they’re out, are they with us or [are] they not?”

After Adm. McRaven said Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar is likely hiding in Pakistan, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) demanded Pakistan hand him over.

Pakistani officials have said limited military capacity—not lack of will—is inhibiting their operations against militant groups.

Gen. Allen said he backs President Obama’s decision to pull 10,000 troops out of Afghanistan this year, and the remaining 23,000 surge troops by the end of next summer. After the drawdown, the U.S. would still have 68,000 troops in the country, he said.

But he acknowledged that the military didn’t recommend a drawdown schedule as aggressive as the one Mr. Obama chose.

Under questioning from Sen. Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.), a critic of the Obama administration’s drawdown plan, Gen. Allen suggested that if conditions deteriorate he would advise Mr. Obama to alter the plan.

“It is my responsibility to the chain of command and to our commander-in-chief to ensure—should I be concerned about the progress or the execution of the campaign—that I so advise the chain of command,” he said.

Neither the Afghan Taliban nor the Haqqani network has directly targeted the Pakistani government. And Islamabad remains wary of a hasty U.S. withdrawal and sees the militant networks as potential future allies in Afghanistan.

Gen. Allen said even as troops leave Afghanistan, the military would continue to implement its current counterinsurgency strategy, which is aimed at protecting civilians from the insurgents while helping the government extend its reach and legitimacy.

Sen. Graham asked if Gen. Allen would have enough forces to continue that strategy, which requires large numbers of troops to secure population centers.

“How can we maintain counterinsurgency if all the surge forces have gone?” Sen. Graham asked.

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