‘Do not repeat the ‘80s,’ Pakistani FM warns US - GulfToday

‘Do not repeat the ‘80s,’ Pakistani FM warns US


Mike Pompeo greets Shah Mehmood Qureshi before a meeting at the US State Department in Washington on Friday. Associated Press

Tariq Butt / Agencies

Pakistan said that the United States must remain engaged in Afghanistan’s reconstruction even if it succeeds in withdrawing troops and ending its longest war.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was visiting Washington where he is set to speak to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the growing momentum toward a deal between the United States and the Taliban.

Qureshi warned the United States not to return to neglect of Afghanistan, as seen after 1989 when Soviet troops pulled out under pressure from guerrillas backed by Washington and Islamabad.

“Do not repeat the ‘80s,” Qureshi said at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies on the eve of his talks with Pompeo.

“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,” he said.

“They should remain engaged — not to fight, but to rebuild,” he said.

The United States returned to Afghanistan in 2001 in an invasion to out the Taliban, whose extremist regime welcomed Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the Sept.11 attacks.

President Donald Trump is eager to remove the more than 12,000 US troops remaining in Afghanistan, seeing the war as no longer worth its cost.

The Taliban, in their latest negotiations with the United States in Doha, have proposed a brief ceasefire in hopes of building momentum to a deal.

Pakistan was the main backer of the former Taliban regime and maintains contacts.

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

“They are pragmatic and not foolish. They are also fatigued,” he said at the event in Washington.

The Taliban will implement a 10-day ceasefire with US troops, a reduction in violence with Afghan forces and discussions with Afghan government officials if it reaches an agreement with US negotiators in talks in Doha, two sources have said.

If an agreement is reached, the move could revive hopes for a long-term solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.

Taliban and US negotiation teams met on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the signing of a peace deal, according to a spokesman for the Taliban office in Doha, Qatar.

The talks between the two sides were “useful” and would continue for a few days, the spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, said in a tweet early on Friday.

Talks that had resumed after Trump visited US troops in Afghanistan in November were put on “pause” again the following month after the Taliban launched a suicide attack on a US base outside Kabul killing two civilians.

However, two sources close to the matter told Reuters on Wednesday that the Taliban’s top leadership had discussed and agreed to implement a 10-day ceasefire with US troops once an agreement was signed with US officials in Doha, and “reduce” attacks against the Afghan government as well.

A senior Taliban commander said: “The US wanted us to announce a ceasefire during the peace talks which we had rejected. Our shura (council) has agreed to a ceasefire the day the peace accord is signed.”

Once an agreement for the ceasefire is in place, the Taliban and Afghan government could meet face to face in Germany, said the commander. Previously, the Taliban had refused to engage in talks with the Afghan government.

“Our representatives have been meeting with the US negotiation team in Doha and they persistently demanded a ceasefire which we had declined due to some issues,” the Taliban commander said. “Now most of our reservations have been addressed.”

Another source close to the talks confirmed the commander’s version of events.

A date for the signing of the agreement with the U.S. side has not been fixed, but the Taliban commander said he expected it to be “very soon.”

Both sources asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

A US State Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the matter. The Pentagon referred queries to the State Department.

Officials in the Afghan Presidential Palace said they were unaware of any deal.

Related articles