US ‘militaristic approach’ no solution to Afghan conflict: Asif

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NEW YORK, Sept 16 (APP): Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif has said that the Trump administration’s “militaristic approach” in
Afghanistan represented a failed policy, and he called for talks with the Taliban to bring
peace to the war-torn country.
Asif, who is heading to New York to participate in the 72nd session
of the United Nations General Assembly, told The Wall Street Journal newspaper in
Islamabad that he could not understand how the American military could succeed now in
Afghanistan when it had not during the
“surge” under the Obama administration with a force eight times as
large as the one now planned.
The foreign minister instead called for peace talks with the
Taliban, which, he said, could be arranged if Washington worked with countries in the
region that have influence over the Taliban militant
group.
“They are pursuing a folly, a strategy that has already failed,”
the foreign minister said in an interview with the Journal. “Force will
not solve any problem, it has not solved problems in the past.”
Asif said he would tell UN members that “peace should return to
this area and force is not the solution.”
On Wednesday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also said that
there could be no military solution to the Afghan conflict and called
for efforts towards creating a political solution.
“I believe it is important in Afghanistan to invest in the conditions
to create a political solution. I believe that is possible,” Guterres
told reporters at the UN at a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York.
In his dispatch the newspaper’s correspondent, Saeed Shah,
underscored that Pakistan’s cooperation was vital to the effort to
stabilize neighbouring Afghanistan and extricating America from its
longest war.
“The US and Pakistan are ostensible allies, but have long suffered strained ties.
Relations turned more confrontational after President
Donald Trump accused Pakistan in August of providing a haven for
terrorists and then threatening to withhold aid if there wasn’t better cooperation,” the
dispatch said.
Trump had said that a political settlement with elements of the
Taliban was “perhaps” possible, but only after an effective US military campaign.
The foreign minister subsequently canceled a trip to the US for talks with US
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Islamabad also rejected a planned visit to Pakistan
by the senior US official dealing with the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, Alice Wells. Instead,
the foreign minister toured the region, visiting US adversaries in China, Iran and Turkey,
saying afterward that they agreed that a political solution was needed.
Asif said he would meet at the UN with his Russian counterpart to
get Moscow on board with this plan.
“I think Americans should be more realistic and more pragmatic
about their approach in Afghanistan,” Asif was quoted as saying. “They
have already lost more than 40% of territory to the Taliban. How do you
keep on fighting with them?”
The Trump administration plan would add up to 3,900 US soldiers to
the 8,400 that the Pentagon says are already there, and allow them to
fight the Taliban with freer rules of engagement. At its peak, under President Barack
Obama, the US had over 100,000 soldiers there.
Tillerson said last month that the US strategy was to convince the
Taliban understand that they cannot win on the battlefield and “at
some point we have to come to the negotiating table and find a way to
bring this to an end.”
Asif said now was the time for talks and that neighbours were willing
to help. A four-country group intended to promote such talks — Pakistan, China, the US
and Afghanistan, which has not met for over a year, could
be expanded to include other countries with influence over the Taliban,
he said.
Pakistan’s influence over the militant group had waned, he said, so other
countries with contacts with the Taliban also needed to be involved, including Iran, China
and Russia. The Taliban have indicated that they
are willing to talk to the US on a timetable for its withdrawal, but not
to the Afghan government.
Khawaja Asif also questioned the US assertion that Pakistan allowed
sanctuaries for Afghan militants.
“They don’t need sanctuaries on our territory. They have plenty of territory
which Americans have lost to them in Afghanistan during the
last 15 years,” Asif said. “This is scapegoating you know, nothing else.”
The foreign minister said it was America’s militaristic policy across the Muslim
world that had inflamed much of the violence.
“There is chaos from Afghanistan to Libya, you tell what is the
common denominator in this whole chaos,” Asif said. “Has American policy
in this whole region, the Middle East and our region, brought peace dividends to
anywhere?”
Meanwhile, Zeke Johnson, a senior director of programmes at Amnesty
International USA, expressed his concern over the drone strike in Pakistan,
saying “the last thing the US should be doing right now is expanding a global, secret killing
programmme. By its own admission, the US
government’s use of drones has meant the deaths of civilians and there has been
insufficient accountability.”
He said the “US must comply with international law when it comes to
the use of lethal force and any potentially unlawful strikes should be independently
investigated.”