Afghanistan is much more than about counter terrorism: Pak envoy to US

Irshad Salim— Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry spoke on Wednesday at an event hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (a global think tank) in Washington DC.

His half-hour address highlighted some forgotten historical facts, drew attention of the attendees toward his perspective of global events and its effect, including state of current affairs in South Asia, Afghanistan. He also contextualized Pakistan’s position in the current scenario.

According to the ambassador: “Protectionism and narrow nationalism are challenging international trade and globalization respectively; Afghanistan is testing the limits of the United States. The world order created by the US and its allies after World War II is in a stress; “We don’t know yet what would replace it. South Asia is not much different either. India and China have an uneasy peace; India and Pakistan are not talking; Afghanistan remains not in a good shape; security situation there has deteriorated by all accounts; and there are major question marks over the Iran nuclear deal which was painstakingly achieved after ten years. So the situation is uncertain in South Asia as well; Given all these, Pakistan has not done that bad in the four areas: fight against terrorism, economic situation, youth bulge and continuity of democracy.”

“We faced a flawed narrative launched during Russian invasion of Afghanistan, and suffered by handling the narrative; Pakistan has done well for itself in a terrorism infested region with 6000 soldiers killed and more than 23,000 civilians dead. Pakistan youth bulge is 58% (below the age of 30) and is a big asset when Europe is aging. China too. But it’s an asset if we use it well if they are skilled and it would be a liability if we don’t; the democratic process is in its 11th year even though it’s noisy; people have discovered and realized that democracy is inherently noisy. but we are staying the course and in the process there are values of accountability, transparency and good governance which I believe should be the hallmark of any democratic process.”

The ambassador added that the situation in Afghanistan is not that optimistic. “In my view, the security situation there has emerged as singular most challenge for Pakistan.”

“We stood with the US in their global objectives and they stood with us in our difficult times. Our relationship with China is not at the expense of USA as it is not a zero sum game. There is a robust interaction between US and Pakistan even with or without the ups and downs in their government relations over the years.”

“In Afghanistan Pak-US objectives are similar even though our approaches are different,” he maintained.

He said that 125 acts of terrorism in Pakistan have been perpetrated by militants from Afghanistan. “When Pakistan and the United States worked together they have always succeeded while when they have not they almost certainly failed.”

The Pakistani ambassador stressed on the need to ensure lasting peace in Afghanistan as it is in the best interests of both countries.

He said that instability in the neighboring country becomes a catalyst for terrorist attacks in Pakistan with porous borders.

“We are not on different sides of the aisle”, the ambassador asserted while commenting on Pak-US relations on Afghanistan. “Afghanistan is much more than just about counterterrorism. Political stability; drug war; border management are major issues on the table and they are inter-related,” he said.

Chaudhry said that a comprehensive approach is needed to fight terrorism, not only counterterrorism efforts.

The United States has spent more than 680 billion dollars in the country with almost $21 billion every year to sustain its efforts, the ambassador said.

The ambassador said that since 2009 Pakistan’s state apparatus has used all of its resources to rid the country from the scourge of terrorism. According to official estimates, Pakistan’s economic losses– notwithstanding direct and indirect expense to fight the terror war, has exceeded $123 billion over a decade since 9/11.

He said that the militants have a simple but powerful narrative that it is their holy duty to fight the infidels, however, there is nothing holy about shedding blood of innocents.

“It is imperative to address the mindset of these militants,” he added.

“After the Army Public School attack in which 137 innocent children belonging to military families who were fighting in tribal areas were targeted by terrorists as revenge their narrative was exposed at a huge cost,” he said.

“After this, even the far right of the political fringes of Pakistan agreed that these militants were barbarians,” he said.

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