Pak­istani of­fi­cial im­plores U.S. to end war with Afghan Taliban

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY CARLO MUÑOZ

IS­LAM­ABAD, PAKISTAN | The United States must abandon any hope of win­ning the war in Afghanistan on the bat­tle­field and seek a peace deal with the Taliban, Pakistan’s top na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cial said.

“End the suf­fer­ing of Afghanistan and of its peo­ple. Let us seek the clo­sure of the con­flict in­stead of win­ning it,” Pak­istani Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Nasser Khan Jan­jua, a former army gen­eral, said dur­ing an ex­clu­sive round­table with re­porters in the Pak­istani cap­i­tal.

Pres­i­dent Trump’s blue­print re­leased last sum­mer for the Afghanistan con­flict, now in its 17th year, called for an es­ca­lated Amer­i­can mil­i­tary ef­fort to force the rad­i­cal Is­lamist Taliban to the bar­gain­ing ta­ble, but Mr. Trump ques­tioned the idea of ne­go­ti­a­tions af­ter a string of deadly Taliban and Is­lamic State strikes this year.

The State De­part­ment says the U.S. gov­ern­ment backs a peace process pro­posed by Afghan Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani Feb. 28 that would al­low the Taliban to or­ga­nize as a po­lit­i­cal party if it agrees to end its in­sur­gency and joins the po­lit­i­cal process. The U.S. has con­sis­tently re­jected the Taliban’s de­mands for di­rect talks be­tween Washington and the ter­ror­ist group and the im­me­di­ate with­drawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan.

Mr. Jan­jua called for the U.S. to forgo any hope of mil­i­tary vic­tory amid re­ports that the U.S.-backed gov­ern­ment in Kabul con­trols less than 60 per­cent of the wartorn coun­try in the face of a resur­gent Taliban.

“It is not pos­si­ble for the U.S. to win back 44 per­cent of Afghanistan,” he said, speak­ing at Pakistan’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Di­vi­sion head­quar­ters. “Let us re­solve [the war] po­lit­i­cally. Let us rec­on­cile. How long do we want to con­tinue to fight in Afghanistan?”

Ten­sions be­tween Is­lam­abad and Washington soared in re­cent months in the after­math of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s hard-line rhetoric against Pakistan’s role in the war on ter­ror­ist groups in South Asia, capped by a sharp cut in U.S. aid and mil­i­tary sup­port programs in Jan­uary.

Mem­bers of the Fi­nan­cial Ac­tion Task Force, an in­ter­na­tional reg­u­la­tory group com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism fi­nanc­ing, last month voted to put Pakistan on its watch list over its in­abil­ity to cur­tail known ter­ror­ist groups’ fund­ing and op­er­a­tions. The move could se­verely re­strict for­eign in­vest­ment and move­ment of cap­i­tal in and out of the coun­try, Is­lam­abad ar­gues.

Pakistan has re­jected the crit­i­cism, cit­ing its ag­gres­sive, costly four-year counterterrorism cam­paign against ex­trem­ist groups along the volatile Afghanistan-Pakistan bor­der.

“We have al­ready paid a heavy price,” Mr. Jan­jua said.

Pakistan wants to re­pair re­la­tions with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, he said, but is also pre­pared to take a step back from the U.S. and its re­gional goals in South Asia should the White House im­pose fur­ther eco­nomic sanc­tions or re­stric­tions on the coun­try’s armed forces.

“Any uni­lat­eral ac­tion by the U.S. against Pakistan will cre­ate a huge, huge dif­fi­culty for us, and we will not be able to sup­port the U.S.” in Afghanistan and the re­gion, he said. Con­versely, the White House’s em­brace of a new peace road map in Afghanistan could bring the two long­time al­lies closer to­gether.

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