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Britain, Pakistan back bid for Afghan peace

Published Jul 19, 2012 12:29pm


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Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (R), Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashfraf (L), and Afghan President Hamid Karzai shake hands before a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on July 19, 2012. - AFP Photo

KABUL: Afghan efforts to negotiate with the Taliban need Islamabad's help to be successful, the leaders of Afghanistan, Britain and Pakistan emphasised on Thursday, following three-way talks in Kabul.

British leader David Cameron and Afghan President Hamid Karzai met Pakistan's new Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf for the first time, as British and Nato combat troops prepare to leave Afghanistan in 18 months' time.

Karzai has long sought to negotiate with the Taliban, who have been fighting for a decade to topple his Western-backed government, but the militia has in public refused to deal with his administration, branding it an American puppet.

Earlier this year the militia also announced that it had abandoned contact with US officials in Qatar aimed at securing a prisoner swap. During the talks, Karzai reiterated the “urgency” of a political solution.

His office said Ashraf and Cameron reaffirmed support for such a process, “led and owned by Afghans, facilitated by Pakistan and other regional countries”.

Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan traditionally suffer from distrust and mutual blame for the Taliban violence that plagues both countries.

Kabul has repeatedly asked Islamabad to assist efforts to broker a peace deal with the Taliban, whose leaders have traditionally had close ties to Pakistan.

But it remains unclear to what extent Pakistan controls core Taliban leaders and to what extent it can facilitate a peace process.

In today's editorial piece in Dawn, the editor counseled Pakistan to “begin to match its claims and demands with what it can actually deliver”.

“It will need to demonstrate at least a genuine effort to try to persuade the Taliban (which) it does have contact with, to talk to the Afghan government and the US -- and turning over prisoners could be a first step,” the editorial added.

It was Ashraf's first visit to Kabul since being elected after his predecessor was dismissed last month for contempt of court.

An Islamabad government official said he would raise the issue of cross-border attacks on Pakistan from Afghan territory and press for increased security measures to prevent such incursions in the future.

Afghanistan shares a disputed and unmarked 2,400-kilometre border with Pakistan, and Taliban and other Al-Qaeda-linked militants have carved out strongholds on either side.

According to the joint statement released by Kabul, the three leaders “reiterated their strong commitment to working together to eliminate”terrorism, which “poses the gravest threat to regional and international security”.

“They also emphasised the importance of peace in Afghanistan for the peace and security of Pakistan,” it said.

Cameron warned the Taliban at a joint news conference with Karzai earlier that the international community would continue to support the Afghan government after Nato troops pull out in 2014.

A Nato conference in Chicago and a donor conference in Tokyo had recently shown the West's commitment to the war-torn country, he said.

“I think this sends a very clear message to the Taliban, that you cannot wait this out until foreign forces leave in 2014, because we will be firm friends and supporters of Afghanistan long beyond then.

“So now is the time for everyone to participate in a peaceful political process in Afghanistan.”Karzai said the peace process was “the most important goal that we pursue”, adding that Thursday's talks were “to see how we could intensify the Pakistan role in the Afghan peace process”.

Cameron also signed a deal to build an officers' training academy modelled on Britain's Sandhurst as Afghan forces take increasing responsibility for the fight against Taliban insurgents.

Britain has around 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, making it the second-largest contributor to NATO's US-led 130,000-strong International Security Assistance Force.

Asked about reductions in troop numbers, Cameron said it would be done gradually, from 9,500 to 9,000 this year. “I don't want to see some cliff edge. I'm confident we are going to have a staged reduction and deliver a safe and secure situation.”

Before leaving to Kabul, PM Ashraf said long term peace in Afghanistan was only possible through an intra-Afghan political settlement that includes all Afghan stakeholders.

Talking to the leaders of leading opposition coalition of Afghanistan National Front (ANF) here at the Pakistan embassy, he said that Pakistan has friendly ties with the leadership of ANF.

The PM Ashraf said that Pakistan attaches great importance to its friendly relations with all Afghan ethnic groups and leaders. He said Pakistan would like these strong bonds to further strengthen.

“We want to work closely with Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek leaders to strengthen our relations with these communities for stability in Afghanistan,” he added.

The Prime Minister acknowledged the role of ANF in Afghanistan and its efforts for long term stability and progress of their country.


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Comments (6) Closed

Javed Jul 19, 2012 02:31pm
Does this Prime Minister of Pakistan has any say?He is guest of few days and shall be out soon on contempt of court.Neither public of Pakistan accept him as such.Nor he has intellect/experiece. Mr.M.Asghar,I agree with you,peace can only come with the help of regionl powers.History indicates Afghans have never been subdued.Who knows better than british.Afghans always lived in peace with their neighbours,until pricked by the west. Western powers failed to realise that Afghanistan is not Korea,Vietnam or Cambodia.There they just walked out.Considering the nature of Afghans,their revengefull nature will make them pursue them.I wish western world had utalised all those billions of dollars in education/welfare of Afghans instead of bombs and won their hearts ad made them better human beings.My personal experience indicates they are very thankful people and good friends,but worst enemies. I suppose it's too late now
Dr V. C. Bhutani Jul 19, 2012 02:14pm
Pakistan seems to forget that Afghans are traditionally opposed to having a ruler or a leader who had not been erected by them. Whether it was Shah Shuja or Najibullah or Karzai, Afghans never accepted him. Will they accept Pakistan’s overlordship? Personally, I believe the Afghan Taliban shall effect their ascension to power not long after December 2014 but they are unlikely to pass under Pakistan’s tutelage. Concluded. V. C. Bhutani, Delhi, India, 19 December 2012, 1940 IST
Dr V. C. Bhutani Jul 19, 2012 02:14pm
Nothing has happened in the recent past to lead us to think that Pakistan’s approach has changed at all. Whether it is the Afghan Taliban or the Haqqani Network or the LeT or any other terrorist outfit, Pakistan hoped to use them as its “assets” and make sure that Afghanistan had all the trappings of independence and sovereignty but no pretensions to either. In a word, Pakistan would have been effectively annexed by Pakistan – without the obligation to organize the administration of Afghanistan, which would continue to remain with the Afghan “independent” and “sovereign” rulers who would pick up all the opprobrium for everything that went wrong: nothing could have gone right any way. Now, if this remains Pakistan’s principal concern about Afghanistan, then what can Karzai and Cameron hope for in the days to come? The result can only be absolute disaster, which shall not be long in coming.
Nasir Mahmood Jul 19, 2012 02:29pm
A courageous leadership is required to play an important role for peace in Afghanistan. A double standard being shown by the occupied forces. They want Pakistan's help to negotiate with Taliban and on the other hand Britain wanted to build a training academy for Afghan army to fight against Taliban.
M. Asghar Jul 19, 2012 01:17pm
The peace to Afghanistan can come only through the efforts of its neighbours Iran, Pakistan and China and away from the disruptive presence of the outsiders who are in the region only for their narrow self-interests.
Bala Jul 20, 2012 04:20am
it would have better to indicate issue through a broader canvas, rather going back to same rhetoric of blame game. A lot has changed, is changing and will change in Pak-Afghan context. It is out of context to blame Pakistan for trying to steer Taliban. If NATO couldn't do it, Pakistan can not. However, if Pakistan is being asked to intermediate for the good of all parties we need to appreciate it. Well Pakistan has never annexed any neighbours, but India has annexed Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal to some extent, assisted TAMILs of Sri Lanka, made Afghans against Pakistan, is airing insurgency in Balochistan, has taken over Kashmir - -- - - - . Lets be good neighbours for the good of our people.