Sherry Rehman, Pakistan's ambassador to the US, speaks during an interview in Islamabad July 5, 2012. — Photo by Reuters

WASHINGTON: Pakistan was bracing itself for the consequences of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Ambassador Sherry Rehman said on Tuesday while underlining the country’s policy options after 2014.

“If there’s no negotiated resolution of the Afghan crisis, there will be terrible consequences and Pakistan will be the worst hit,” she said.

The US plans to end its combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and is encouraging the Afghan government to engage the Taliban militants for a peaceful end to the conflict. The Taliban, however, appear reluctant to work with Kabul.

In a policy speech at the Atlantic Council in Washington, Ambassador Rehman assured the audience that Pakistan no longer saw Afghanistan as its strategic backyard and the military was also supporting this policy shift.

“It builds equities for peace,” said the Pakistani envoy to Washington while responding to a question about the country’s nuclear arsenal. But she explained that Islamabad also had launched a “diplomatic surge” to bring peace and stability to the region and was working with other nations in South and Central Asia to achieve this target.

The ambassador rejected the suggestion that while the civilian government may have moved away from viewing Afghanistan as its strategic backyard, the military still believed in the old doctrine.

“The civilian government and the military are working together” in bringing about this change, she said. “We have stopped playing favourites in Afghanistan because we have learned that no-one but the Afghans can broker peace for their country.”

Ambassador Rehman said that those who suggested that the United States and Pakistan were like a couple who were once married but were now engaged in divorce proceedings committed “intellectual laziness”.

“This is a relationship between two independent nations with real responsibilities,” she said.

The two countries, she noted, had “cognitive disconnects” and needed to overcome “pathologies of distrust” that bedevilled their ties. “There are ghosts from the past that need to be stood up and exorcised,” she added.

The “narrative of abandonment” still dominated conversations in Pakistan because the memories of the recent past were “littered with a toxic trash of war”, she said.

Pakistan was not trying to divest itself of the responsibilities of what happened after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan but it did have a “calendar of anxieties” as another withdrawal gets closer, said the ambassador.

The United States and Pakistan “may have won the war together, but we lost the peace”, she said. Unlike the US and the Soviet Union, “we do not have the luxury of walking away from the region”, she added.

Ambassador Rehman said she did not like using “the cliché” that Afghanistan was a graveyard of empires “but it does bubble up”.

She stressed the need for going beyond Afghanistan while seeking a new relationship with Pakistan and urged the Americans to base new ties “on trade, not aid”.

Ms Rehman also reminded the Americans that terrorists could not be defeated with drones alone. “It’s not a very good idea… is a breach of international laws … and brings only diminishing returns for the United States.”

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Comments (11) (Closed)

Feb 27, 2013 06:36pm
With all respect to Afghan people, but oh for Gods sake, please put up a barrier between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Afghans have taken over everything useful in the country, business, transport, hotels, restaurants, labor, houses, everything is being taken by them, they own luxury houses in Islamabad thanks to corrupt officials getting them Pakistani ID cards while our own people suffer, these Afghans get help from UN and NGOs and relatives in the West, no one is helping poor Pakistanis in their own country, please travel to interior Sindh, Punjab or Balochistan....our own people are neglected. Please evict the Afghans, their values are not the same as ours, our culture is different, they are mostly vagabonds and criminals, who can commit a crime and hide in Afghanistan, I hope you allow my post to be published because I love Pakistan and cry when I see what Karachi has become, you cannot tell when you are living in Pakistan, but only when you visit from abroad, I live in the US and I can tell you Afghans hate Pakistan more than Indians.
Jamshed Khan
Feb 27, 2013 07:20am
Too much make-up.
Feb 27, 2013 06:09am
She needs to go slow on the make up. Embarrassing for us in the US.
Feb 27, 2013 06:37pm
amazing, she is talking about such a important topic and all you can comment on is her makeup? The mods allow that, but sometimes my fair comments are not posted....this shows where Pakistan is headed. So sad.....
Feb 27, 2013 06:11am
Bravo Sherry! I love the way you carry Pakistan with pride and not shame (like most of our politicians do). Be intrepid as you are, and say what's true. And the truth is that we've been exploited by these power hungry super powers, for their vested interests.
Naseer Wahid
Feb 27, 2013 06:01am
Excellent. Very well said. My hat's off to Sherry Rehman.
Feb 27, 2013 03:40am
Very well said. Amb. Rehman making lot of sense.
sultan pervez
Feb 27, 2013 01:06pm
Pakistan and Afghanistan are historically brothers,Unfortunately the difference was brought about with the fall of the Mougals some three hundred years ago in India. This gap left Afghanistan far behind in education and social standards.These guys have not caught up with the modern standards and will not do so without the help of Pakistan. There is the trust but little understanding of today. Good news is that both of them are learning fast and both governments are wasting no time in bringing about education in every street as a matter of priority so that an understanding and trust between the two brotherly neighbours may be maintained.
Feb 27, 2013 10:35pm
She's speaking now...??? I listed out these threads six months back just after US troops withdrawal announcement by Dec 2014...
Feb 27, 2013 10:39pm
I desired to check who 1st like your comment. By hitting, it counts 2 ... :-(
Jamshed Khan
Feb 28, 2013 03:58pm
I am not surprised that an intelligent Dawn reader didn't get my point.