Foreign troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan must coincide with progress in peace process, says Pakistan

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Pakistan on Thursday said it is important the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan coincides with progress in the peace process after US President Joe Biden announced it’s “time to end” America’s longest war with the unconditional pulling out of troops.

The Foreign Office, in a statement, said Pakistan had been consistently supporting and facilitating the efforts for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan.

“We believe there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and a negotiated political solution through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process is important for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan,” it said. 

Towards this end, the US-Taliban Agreement of 29 February 2020 in Doha laid the foundation for a comprehensive intra-Afghan peace agreement including a permanent ceasefire for bringing an end to violence in Afghanistan, said the statement.

The Foreign Office hoped the forthcoming meeting of Afghan leadership in Turkey would be an important opportunity for Afghans to make progress towards a negotiated political settlement.

“We support the principle of responsible troop withdrawal in coordination with Afghan stakeholders […] and hope the US will continue to urge the Afghan leaders to seize this historic opportunity for achieving a political settlement in Afghanistan,” it said.

It stressed that Pakistan had consistently reiterated peace and stability in Afghanistan were in its interest and reaffirmed its abiding commitment for a peaceful, stable, united, democratic, sovereign, and prosperous Afghanistan.

“A meaningful engagement of the international community for promoting reconstruction and economic development in post-conflict Afghanistan is important for ensuring sustainable peace and stability,” the Foreign Office’s statement read.

It said that Islamabad believes another key feature in the efforts for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan should be a time-bound and well-resourced plan for the return of Afghan refugees to their homeland and their reintegration in Afghanistan.

“Pakistan will continue to work together with the international community in the efforts for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan,” the Foreign Office added.

‘Hold Taliban accountable’

A day earlier, in a nationally televised address, Biden had said the US would “hold the Taliban accountable” on promises to keep international extremists from setting up base in Afghanistan.

“We will ask other countries in the region to support Afghanistan, especially Pakistan, as well as Russia, China, India, and Turkey,” he added.

Dubbed the “forever war,” the US military onslaught in Afghanistan began in response to September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.

Now, 20 years later — after almost 2,400 US military and tens of thousands of Afghan deaths — Biden named September 11 as the deadline by which the last US soldiers will have finally departed.

Biden said the US had “accomplished” its limited original mission of crushing the international militant groups behind the 9/11 attacks and that with every passing year the rationale for staying was “increasingly unclear”.

Biden insisted there would be no “hasty exit,” but he was adamant about his decision. “A horrific attack 20 years ago […] cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021,” he said. “It’s time to end the forever war.”

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