WASHINGTON, Oct 7: The United States wants peace with ‘reconcilable’ insurgents in Afghanistan, says US Defence Secretary Robert Gates while commenting on a new peace move.
“The idea is, how do you convince some of these people to stop killing Americans and our allies and above all Afghans and become a part of the future of the state of Afghanistan?,” said Mr Gates while explaining the US goal in supporting the peace move that led to a meeting between the representatives of the Taliban and Afghan government in Makkah last month.
The United States believes that this target can be achieved if the Taliban renounce violence and sever their ties to Al Qaeda.
Whether the United States can achieve this objective or not, the Americans and the Saudis, who are playing a key role in this new move, have made it abundantly clear that they see no role for Pakistan in this.
A senior Pakistani diplomat, who has stayed engaged with the Americans on this issue, told Dawn that he had noticed “a sea change” in America’s Afghan policy.
“During the cold war, they viewed Afghanistan from our binoculars. They no longer need to do so. They are now sitting in Afghanistan,” he said.
“Now they look at Pakistan from Kabul and see what is good for Afghanistan and how Islamabad can help achieve this.”
The diplomat also noted that neither the Taliban nor the Afghan government were willing to trust Pakistan any longer. “Both have more trust in India, than in Pakistan,” he said. “Seen from this perspective, it’s not surprising that both Saudi Arabia and the US decided to keep Pakistan out of the new move.”
While Pakistani diplomats in Washington worry about their role in the new peace move, US officials also are not too excited about it.
But they realise that they need to engage the Taliban.
A transcript released by the Pentagon quoted Mr Gates as saying that reconciliation between the Taliban and the Afghan government which ends attacks on US and Nato forces was “one of the key long-term solutions in Afghanistan, just as it has been in Iraq”.
The US defence secretary, while talking to reporters in Budapest, Hungry, also appreciated the Saudi initiative in bringing together the rival Afghan groups for peace talks. He said he had no objection to Saudi Arabia trying to broker a peace deal between the Afghan government and militants.
Mr Gates said he would discuss the Taliban insurgency with Nato officials at a meeting in Budapest this week as well.