US must be involved in Afghanistan after troops leave, says FM Qureshi

Published January 17, 2020
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi meets with US senators in Washington on Thursday. — Photo courtesy Shah Mehmood Qureshi
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi meets with US senators in Washington on Thursday. — Photo courtesy Shah Mehmood Qureshi

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday said United States must remain engaged in Afghanistan's reconstruction even if it succeeds in withdrawing troops and ending its longest war.

The foreign minister is currently in the United States on the third leg of his mission to defuse tensions in the Middle East, having already visited Tehran and Riyadh as part of Pakistan's diplomatic efforts.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Qureshi said: "Peace in Afghanistan is ultimately a shared responsibility and Pakistan [...] alone cannot do all that is needed".

The foreign minister warned the US not to neglect Afghanistan, as was seen after 1989 when Soviet troops pulled out under pressure from guerrillas fighters backed by Washington and Islamabad.

"Do not repeat the '80s," he said, adding: "Even if there is a successful agreement, challenges will remain there, so the United States and its friends and coalition partners will have to have a more responsible withdrawal.

"They should remain engaged — not to fight, but to rebuild."

Qureshi said he has seen a willingness from the Taliban to reduce the violence.

"They are pragmatic and not foolish. They are also fatigued," he said.

The foreign minister is set to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today on the growing momentum toward a deal between the United States and the Taliban.

Meanwhile, discussing the situation in occupied Kashmir, Qureshi said Pakistan wanted a solution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the United Nations' resolutions and the aspirations of Kashmiris, Radio Pakistan reported.

According to Radio Pakistan, Qureshi said India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had "misled" the international community about the Pulwama incident and "construed Pakistan's desire for peace as its weakness", adding that Pakistan only wants "peace for development".

Qureshi meets US lawmakers

Qureshi also held meetings with a host of US lawmakers from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday. The lawmakers included Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee Senator Mitt Romney, Senator Chris Murphy and Senator Jim Risch.

Qureshi said he discussed Pakistan's contribution to the Afghan peace process, recent tensions in the Middle East and India's illegal lockdown in occupied Kashmir.

The foreign minister also held a meeting with US Under Secretary of Defence John Rood, the Foreign Office said in a statement.

In the meeting, Qureshi told Rood that Pakistan is "deeply concerned about prospects of any instability in its neighbourhood and [remains] ready to play its due role in finding a peaceful solution to the tensions between US and Iran".

Qureshi informed Rood about his recent visits to Tehran and Riyadh and stressed the need for de-escalation and dialogue, the Foreign Office statement said.

"Defence and security cooperation has been one of the defining features of our bilateral cooperation.

"The US decision to revive the International Military Education and Training programme for Pakistan had significant symbolic value and was a welcome first step in further reviving bilateral military cooperation," it added.

During the meeting, the two discussed various aspects of the Pakistan-US defence cooperation as well as the evolving regional situation.

According to the statement, Rood briefed the foreign minister about ongoing defence-related cooperation between the two countries.

Meanwhile, Qureshi brought the US undersecretary for defence up to speed on Pakistan's efforts for peace and stability in South Asia, the statement added.

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