ISLAMABAD: The withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan can be a ‘much longer than expected’ process and is poised to test security ties between Pakistan and the United States, experts warned here on Thursday.
The warning from top former diplomats came as Islamabad and Washington continue to ‘fight it out between themselves’ to secure ‘divergent’ interests, ahead of an impending endgame in Afghanistan.
Speaking at the launch of a report by Jinnah Institute, the speakers asserted that a negotiated settlement was the only way forward in Afghanistan.
Titled as “Pakistan, the United States and the endgame in Afghanistan; perception of Pakistan’s foreign policy elite”, the report is based on collective as well as individual interactions with academics, former military and diplomatic officials and politicians.
Former ambassador Aziz Ahmed Khan said on the occasion that the world must not expect the Taliban to come to negotiating tables on terms set by the US because the option of using force had already been exhausted.
He added that the US should include Pakistan in the dialogue process.
He advised both Pakistani and US leadership to overcome ‘infighting’ which might threaten their strategic partnership.
“The US and Pakistan need to clear mutual misunderstandings. Otherwise, durable peace is not possible in Afghanistan,” Khan suggested.
Riaz Khokhar, the former foreign secretary, said that recent indications that the US might maintain the presence of its troops in Afghanistan till 2024 were disturbing and would not help the cause of bringing stability to the war-torn country.
Obsession with Indian role
Moeed Yusuf, one of the authors of the report and a South Asia advisor at the US institute of Peace, said Pakistan’s concerns in any future arrangement for Afghanistan must be addressed.
He added that Pakistan’s ‘obsession’ with an Indian role in Afghanistan other than development purposes was complicating Islamabad’s narrative for the future settlement in the war-hit country.
He also shared fears of former diplomats that the longer US troops stay in Afghanistan; the more difficult it would be for Pakistan to adjust its position.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2011.