ISLAMABAD: While reports coming from the United States suggest the Pentagon has started planning to remove its troops in Afghanistan by next spring, Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned against the hasty withdrawal of foreign troops from war-torn Afghanistan, terming it as an “unwise” move.
In an Op-Ed for The Washington Post, the prime minister observed that the intra-Afghan talks which began between the Taliban and Kabul government negotiators in Doha, Qatar on September 12 to discuss a political solution to end decades of war in Afghanistan were a “rare moment of hope” for the country and the South Asian region.
The comments come as President Trump has been touting US troop drawdowns in the region in the final stretch of the presidential campaign as evidence he is delivering on his promise to end America’s “endless wars.” Reports suggest the US expects to be at about 4,500 troops in Afghanistan by November.
However, Imran says any such move would be “unwise”. “All those who have invested in the Afghan peace process should resist the temptation for setting unrealistic timelines. A hasty international withdrawal from Afghanistan would be unwise,” he wrote.
“We should also guard against regional spoilers who are not invested in peace and see instability in Afghanistan as advantageous for their own geopolitical ends.”
The premier further said: “We have arrived at a rare moment of hope for Afghanistan and for our region. We also learned that peace and political stability in Afghanistan could not be imposed from the outside through the use of force. Only an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led reconciliation process, which recognizes Afghanistan’s political realities and diversity, could produce lasting peace.”
Defining Pakistan’s role in the peace talks, he said it has always been at the forefront in facilitating the process, citing the example of a letter written by US President Trump in 2018 seeking Islamabad’s assistance in “helping the US achieve a negotiated political settlement in Afghanistan.”
“We had no hesitation in assuring the president that Pakistan would make every effort to facilitate such an outcome — and we did.”
The premier added that, just like Washington, Pakistan too does not want to see Afghanistan become a “sanctuary for international terrorism ever again.”
Counting the costs of war, he said that since the deadly 9/11 attacks, more than 80,000 security personnel and civilians had lost their lives in the “largest and most successful fight against terrorism.”
This is even though Pakistan “continues to be the target of attacks launched by externally enabled terrorist groups based in Afghanistan,” he wrote, adding that he hoped for the Afghan government to “control ungoverned spaces inside its territory” to limit attacks against the Afghan people, international coalition forces stationed in Afghanistan, and other countries in the region, including Pakistan.
In his closing comments, Imran reiterated Pakistan’s support for the Afghan people in their “quest for a unified, independent and sovereign Afghanistan” which is at “peace with itself and its neighbors.”