Debate: Talks, not war, solution to the Afghan imbroglio: former ambassador

Pakistan needs to adapt to an increasingly multi-polar world, in which power is shifting from the West to the East.

News Desk February 17, 2012

A former ambassador on Thursday advocated talks and not war to resolve the Afghan imbroglio. “The time has come to wage peace and not war in Afghanistan by supporting the search for a negotiated settlement,” asserted former ambassador Dr Maleeha Lodhi, said a press release.

She was participating in the first of a series of debates being organised by the Islamabad-based Institute of Strategic Studies to discuss the foreign policy issue, the institute said in the press statement. The subject under debate was: “Given its domestic and strategic vulnerability, Pakistan has no option but to support and participate in the US-led ‘War on Terror’ in Afghanistan.”

Dr Lodhi stated that a review of the country’s foreign policy should be undertaken as part of a wider regional and global geo-strategic re-evaluation and not be US-centric.

She said Pakistan needs to adapt to an increasingly multi-polar world in which power is shifting from the West to the East and the era of large-scale military interventions is coming to an end. The 9/11 era is over and with that the 9/11 wars are being wound up. The US has already pulled out from Iraq and has set 2014 as the deadline for the drawdown of most Nato combat troops from Afghanistan.

It should not be domestic vulnerability that dictates foreign policy alignment, but convergence of interests with other countries including the US, she said. Dr Lodhi felt a convergence had emerged, possibly for the first time in a decade, between Pakistan and the US on seeking a political solution to end the Afghan war.

This affords an opportunity to Pakistan for active and energetic engagement to secure its goal of peace, stability, an end to violence in the region and end to drone strikes in Pakistan. Recalling the devastation wrought by America’s “misguided” war on terror in the past 10 years, she questioned whether war was ever the appropriate response to terrorism.

However America, she added, now seems to have moved beyond the 9/11 era after the elimination of Bin Laden and the degradation of the al Qaeda threat.

By declaring there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict and entering direct talks with the Taliban to find a political settlement, America is seeking a way out of a costly and prolonged involvement, she said.

This is a welcome development from the perspective of Pakistan which has long called for an early end to a war which has been destabilising for Pakistan. The US is now pursuing a path Pakistan had advocated 10 years ago, a diplomatic path based on drawing a distinction between al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Dr Lodhi also made a strong case for Pakistan to address the sources of its internal weaknesses by its own efforts rather than relying on its foreign alignment to resolve its vulnerability, which she said was an exercise in futility.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2012.


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