Pakistan hopes for a peaceful Afghanistan as US starts pullout 

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan is hopeful of a peaceful Afghanistan as the United States started pullout from the ‘forever war’ in the war-torn country.  

The US formally started withdrawing its last troops from Afghanistan over the weekend, bringing its longest war nearer to an end. US officials said the withdrawal was already a work in progress and May 1 was just a continuation but Washington had made an issue of the date because it was a deadline agreed with the Taliban in 2020 to complete the pullout.

Just ahead of the pullout, the ‘Extended Troika’ on peaceful settlement of Afghan issue – including Pakistan, China, the United States and the Russian Federation, reiterated that the withdrawal of foreign troops should ensure a steady transition of situation in Afghanistan, besides stressing upon Taliban not to pursue their spring offensive.

In a joint statement released by the four countries after the Extended Troika on Peaceful Settlement in Afghanistan held a meeting in Doha, Qatar on April 30, they agreed there was no military solution in Afghanistan and a negotiated political settlement through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process was the only way forward for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Representatives of the extended Troika had met in Doha, Qatar to discuss ways to support intra-Afghan negotiations and help the parties reach a negotiated settlement and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.

Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said it had been Pakistan’s consistent policy to support an ‘orderly’ and ‘responsible’ withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, leaving no security vacuum that could be exploited by spoilers.

“Pakistan is hopeful, there will be peace in Afghanistan. This is in our interest and the interest of the region,” he said while speaking to The Nation.

Pakistan, he said, had always supported the Afghan peace process including the efforts to bring the US and the Afghan Taliban on the talks table.

“We can certainly take credit for the stability in the region. We have been doing this for our own interest and for the Afghan brothers and sisters,” he said.

On withdrawal, he said, it was important that the withdrawal coincides with the progress in the overall peace process. “Pakistan has also emphasized the need for continued support by all international stakeholders and concerted efforts by Afghan parties for a negotiated settlement to bring an end to over four decades long conflict in Afghanistan. A peaceful and stable Afghanistan is in the larger interest of peace and stability in the region,” he added.

As for Pakistan’s role in the peace process, Chaudhri said, “We will continue to play a constructive role in this regard. We believe that reduction of violence leading to ceasefire, reconstruction and economic development in the post-conflict Afghanistan is also important for ensuring sustainable peace and stability.”

Pakistan had, he said in good faith, facilitated the Afghan peace process which culminated into the signing of US-Taliban Peace Agreement on February 29, 2020, the commencement of Intra-Afghan Negotiations on September 12, 2020 and the Agreement on Rules and Procedures between the Afghan parties in Doha on December 2, 2020.

“Pakistan’s role in this regard has been widely acknowledged and appreciated by the international community. Pakistan has always maintained that it does not control Taliban. We will continue encouraging them to remain engaged in the peace process leading to an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement in Afghanistan,” he said.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani insists that government forces, who for months have carried out most of the ground fighting against the Taliban were “fully capable” of keeping them at bay.

He said the pullout also means the Taliban have no reason to fight. “Who are you killing? What are you destroying? Your pretext of fighting the foreigners is now over,” Ghani said in a speech this week.

And two decades later, and after the death of almost 2,400 Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans, US President Joe Biden said the final withdrawal was justified as US forces had now made sure the country cannot again become a base for militants to plot against the West.

“The United States and its NATO partners are stepping back and giving the two primary sides of this conflict… their first instance to fight with and assess their opponents without the extra factor of the United States,” he said.

FO spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said Pakistan will continue to work together with the international community in the efforts for ensuring for durable and lasting peace in Afghanistan.

He said Pakistan believed that one of the key features in the efforts for lasting peace and security in Afghanistan should be time-bound and well-resourced plan for return of Afghan refugees to their homeland and their reintegration in Afghanistan.

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