US must remain engaged in Afghanistan after troops leave: FM Qureshi

FM Qureshi meets US Senator Lindsay Graham, Under Secretary of Defence for Policy John Rood

AFP/News Desk January 17, 2020
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. PHOTO: PID

WASHINGTON DC: Pakistan said on Thursday that the United States must remain engaged in Afghanistan's reconstruction even if it succeeds in withdrawing troops and ending its longest war.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, currently visiting Washington, will meet Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and discuss the growing momentum toward a deal between the United States and the Taliban.

The foreign minister further warned the United States to not neglect the war-torn country as it had done in 1989 after the withdrawal of Soviet troops.

"Do not repeat the '80s," Qureshi said at the Center 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 regime welcomed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the September 11 attacks.

President Donald Trump is eager to withdraw 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 towards a deal.

Qureshi added that 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.

US senate panel seeks Pak support for Afghan peace

During the third-leg of his US visit, the foreign minister also discussed defence cooperation between Islamabad and Washington in a meeting with Under Secretary of Defence for Policy John Rood late Thursday.

In a tweet, Qureshi termed defence cooperation as one of the most important features of Islamabad’s ties with Washington.

He welcomed the revival of International Military Education and Training Programme (IMET) and said the country looked forward to enhancing military cooperation.

The IMET was a small facet of the US security aid programmes worth some $2 billion that were suspended on orders of US President Donald Trump issued in January 2018.

In December 2019, Trump's administration approved the resumption of Pakistan’s participation in the coveted US military training and educational programme.

The decision underscored warming relations following meetings between Trump and Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The US Congress approval for the decision came early this year – shortly after the US airstrike killed the head of the IRGC's Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani.

The foreign minister also met Senator Lindsay Graham.

He said the discussion focused on the need to expand cooperation in trade, agriculture and investment to realise the vision for enhanced economic engagement between the long-term allies.



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