KABUL: Washington’s special envoy to Afghanistan said on Monday that Pakistan must prove it wants an end to the war by preventing militants from hiding out on its soil and enabling those who launch attacks on the Afghan side of the border.
Marc Grossman, US special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said in Kabul that discussions among Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States being held this week in the Afghan capital are important to coordinate efforts to find a political resolution to the nearly decade-long war.
He said they also are an opportunity to clearly convey to Pakistani officials that part of their responsibility for bringing peace is to stop supporting insurgent safe havens and those who attack Afghans and international forces in Afghanistan.
“We've been pretty clear that going forward here, we want the government of Pakistan to participate positively in the reconciliation process,” Grossman said at a news conference. “Pakistan now has important choices to make.”
Grossman and representatives from more than 40 nations are attending a meeting of the International Contact Group. The group’s 11th meeting comes after President Barack Obama announced last week he was ordering 10,000 US troops home by year’s end; as many as 23,000 more are to leave by September 2012. That would leave 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan.
The 33,000 total to be withdrawn is the number Obama sent as reinforcements in December 2009 as part of an effort to reverse the Taliban’s momentum and hasten an eventual political settlement of the conflict. The US and its allies plan a full combat withdrawal by the end of 2014.
Michael Steiner, German representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said at the news conference that the international community’s engagement will not end in 2014, when Afghan security forces are to have the lead responsibility for security across the nation, a process he said is on track.
“I think we have a strategy which is working despite the difficulties we have,” Steiner said. “I am not painting here any illusions. We will have problems ahead. But I think we have a realistic strategy.”
Separately, the UN World Food Program announced Monday it will cut food assistance to more than 3 million Afghans in about half the country’s 34 provinces because of a shortage of money from donor nations.
The UN agency said it had planned to help feed more than 7 million people in Afghanistan this year, but a shortage of donor funds means only 3.8 million people will be helped through meals provided at schools and training and work programs. It said it needed an additional $220 million to continue its work in Afghanistan at the level originally planned.
The program will focus food assistance on helping the most needy Afghans, especially women and children, said Bradley Guerrant, the agency’s deputy country director.
“We are working hard to raise the funds needed to restart these activities as soon as we can,” he said.
Also, two roadside bomb blasts killed seven civilians Monday in Ghazni province in eastern Afghanistan, the Interior Ministry said. A vehicle struck one of the bombs in Qarabagh district, killing four civilians, including two children, the ministry said. Another vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Ghazni city, killing three civilians. – AP