ISLAMABAD, Oct 18, 2018: Pakistan’s thought leaders have cautioned against the US forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan without first achieving the complete peace and security in the war-torn country.
“Pakistan has been reiterating that the US forces should stay in Afghanistan till the achievement of complete peace and stability,” Foreign office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal said at the weekly briefing on Thursday.
“I would like to draw your attention to the chaos in the aftermath of the withdrawal of USSR [Union of Soviet Socialist Republics] in the late 1980s. The region cannot afford anything similar, at this time,” he added.
The unwinnable war hit the 17-year mark on Oct. 7.
The U.S. currently has around 14,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of its training and advisory efforts as well as various counterterrorism operations.
Days earlier, Director-General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said Pakistan thinks that the US forces must stay in Afghanistan till complete peace is achieved in Afghanistan.
“Peace in Afghanistan is imperative for lasting peace in Pakistan and the region”, the military’s media wing spokesperson said in an address at the University of Warwick, United Kingdom.
The FO spokesperson’s back-to-back statement on Thursday came in response to a question that whether Pakistan would support American troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan as demanded by the Taliban.
US President Donald Trump’s point-man for Afghanistan and Pakistan Zalmay Khalilzad recently held talks with Taliban representatives in Doha –it was preceded by a high level contact between the US and Afghan Taliban in July in the Qatari capital.
Some media reports suggested that while both sides agreed to continue talks, Khalilzad expressed the US willingness to withdraw from Afghanistan.
When asked if Islamabad is ready to invite the ire of Taliban by opposing the withdrawal of US forces, the spokesperson insisted that Pakistan is not afraid of anyone, according to The Express Tribune.
“The allied forces are in Afghanistan under the mandate of the UN Security Council which is renewed every year. The objective of the allied forces in Afghanistan is to achieve and maintain peace and stability,” he said.
“We are of the opinion that until and unless this objective is achieved, the allied forces should stay in Afghanistan. Regarding the second question, you must have seen the reports that Taliban are now talking directly with the US,” he added.
The spokesperson also welcomed the peace efforts by Washington, saying Islamabad always emphasized the need for finding a political solution to the Afghan unrest.
PM Imran Khan last month said Pakistan would be an ally of the US for peace in Afghanistan, not war.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan is on high alert ahead of the long-delayed legislative elections, scheduled for October 20, after the Taliban pledged to attack the ballot.
On Thursday, three top officials in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province were killed when their own guards opened fire on them at a security conference.
A Taliban spokesman said the target was Washington’s top general in Afghanistan, General Scott Miller, who escaped without injury, according to Nato.
More than 2,500 candidates are competing for 249 seats in the lower house.
The election process has already been marred by bloody violence, with hundreds killed or wounded in recent months.
The election is seen as a rehearsal for the presidential vote scheduled for April and an important milestone ahead of a UN meeting in Geneva in November where Afghanistan is under pressure to show progress on “democratic processes”.
Pakistan said the country stands with the Afghan government and people, reiterating its support for the Afghan democratic process.
“We hope that the parliamentary elections due to take place the day after tomorrow would be held peacefully. Strengthening of democracy is key to long term peace and security in Afghanistan,” said a statement issued by the Foreign Office on Thursday.
“Pakistan condemns terrorism,” it added.