• ISPR chief says Islamabad is a facilitator, not guarantor of peace
• Envoy in Kabul urges political settlement to stem violence

KARACHI: While the Taliban claimed to have taken control of 85 per cent of Afghan territory after the US troops had vacated Bagram Airbase, Pakistan military has asserted that the country has no favourites among the Afghan stakeholders and it should be understood that Islamabad is only a facilitator and not a guarantor in Afghan peace process.

The peace process was at a critical stage, and as far as Pakistan is concerned, it made efforts to take it forward sincerely with the “core vision of Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process”, said military spokesman Major General Babar Iftikhar, head of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), in an interview with ARY News here on Saturday.

The director general of ISPR believed the mainstay of resolution to the matter was different factions of the Afghans who would have to decide the future course of Afghan peace.

“Pakistan has no favourites among Afghan stakeholders. The decisions have to be taken by Afghans and they have to decide their leadership. In case of any deadlock, however, we can assist.

“Pakistan has made all-out efforts and could not exceed beyond limits. Afghans have the capacity and capability to decide their future course themselves,” he said.

The DG ISPR said guns (force) were not the way to resolve the Afghan crisis, reminding the people that for the past two decades gunfight could not decide the future of Afghanistan and it should not be an option in the future also.

Referring to the current armed conflict between the Taliban and Afghan forces, the officer believed decision could be made only through dialogue after this phase. “In the past 20 years, US army trained Afghan National Army that has strength, capability and its own Air Force with presence on ground,” he noted. There had been heavy spending on the Afghan forces and the US army trained them for all those years, he recalled, maintaining that the Afghan army and air force were well trained and equipped. “Trillions of dollars have been spent on them and as a professional soldier I believe they should be able to fight this onslaught as a professional force,” he elaborated.

The military spokesman said despite having the capacity if the Afghan forces did not withstand, then its reasons including internal dynamics and ground complexities must be realized. All the stakeholders must understand that it should be Afghans’ own decision and not the one dictated by any foreign party, he added.

Responding to another query, the DG ISPR said the US had withdrawn troops and their allied forces had also left while the complete withdrawal was expected by August 31. He said the stakeholders in the region would have to decide the issue in consultation with the Afghan leadership so that the country would not plunge into another civil war.

Spillover effect

In case of a civil war in Afghanistan, Pakistan could face its spillover effect as experienced in the past, he said, adding that this time Pakistan was very well aware and took preemptive measures to cope with the situation.

He explained that Pakistan-Afghan border security and management had been improved with 90 per cent of the 2,611km stretch of the border already fenced, whereas the remaining spots either were on high altitude or were glaciated places. The military spokesman made it clear that there were forts built with proper mechanism and Frontier Corps (FC) had developed new wings to manage the posts, he added.

“Daesh and TTP groups are based in Afghanistan and attacking Pakistan’s Armed Forces whereas we bore casualties during the border fencing,” he added.

The DG ISPR said the mechanism for Afghan border fencing was better than ever and the armed forces were very well prepared. “God Willing, we should be able to take care of this situation,” he asserted.

Refugees’ influx

Replying to another query on impending Afghan refugees’ influx in case of civil war in Afghanistan, the military spokesman said it was in his knowledge that the interior ministry had made contingency planning to manage refugees’ inflow in case of [continued] violence [in Afghanistan], whereas the international community, particularly regional stakeholders, would have to settle the longstanding Afghan issue.

About Pakistan’s role, the DG ISPR reiterated that it was that of a facilitator in the peace process. “Pakistan’s approach is very clear as it remains committed to never let its soil to be used against anyone,” he said. However, he regretted that there had been no serious effort made by the Afghan or international forces to ensure airtight control to contain terrorist activities against Pakistan from across the border.

He maintained that the responsible withdrawal meant a meaningful exodus of the US forces after a complete transition that was the demand of all stakeholders.

Frustration on Indian side

The DG ISPR told the interviewer that there was huge frustration on the Indian side in view of the Afghanistan scenario. Indian investment in Afghanistan was aimed at establishing its influence to damage Pakistan, as it had moved its spoilers in different directions to blame Pakistan for the unrest in Afghanistan, he said. However, he said, the world realized that Pakistan did earnest efforts to resolve the issue as per the aspirations of the local Afghans.

He made it clear that Indian propaganda would not get any traction whatever propaganda level they were going to apply.

The way out

Also, Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul Mansoor Ahmad Khan in an interview highlighted the need for a political solution to Afghan conflict, adds AFP.

Mr Khan said political solution was the only way to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan and called on the international community to help strengthen Afghan security forces. He warned all the stakeholders that deploying militiamen to fight the Taliban could worsen the situation in the violence-wracked country.

“If things translate into some kind of warfare between militias and Taliban, it will be dangerous,” the Pakistani envoy told AFP.

“Therefore, it is important that Afghan government’s capacity to defend these attacks and these security challenges is strengthened.” More international cooperation was needed in support of President Ashraf Ghani’s government that he said was a “legitimate government at the moment in Afghanistan”, Mr Khan said.

“Therefore all the countries, the international community, have to extend all possible support to Afghanistan in dealing with the security challenges,” the ambassador reiterated.

On Friday, veteran warlord Ismail Khan — whose forces helped topple the Taliban in 2001 — vowed to back government forces fighting against the insurgents.

“If the situation continues to worsen and deteriorate in Afghanistan...there can be an influx of refugees because of very close cross-border cultural contexts and religious context existing between our two societies,” the Pakistani envoy said. “Our first effort or first focus is to avoid things going into that direction,” he said, adding that if there was an “inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement”, it would be in the interest of not only Afghanistan but also in the interest of the entire region.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2021



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