Pakistan seeks role in Afghan endgame: reportFebruary 11, 2010
NEW YORK: In a departure from its previous reluctance to approach the Taliban, Pakistan has told the United States it wants a central role in resolving the Afghan war, the New York Times reported on Wednesday quoting American and Pakistani officials.
The offer, aimed at preserving Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan once the Americans left, could both help and hurt American interests as Washington debated reconciling with the Taliban, the newspaper said.
Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani expressed Pakistan’s willingness to mediate at a meeting late last month at the Nato headquarters with top American military officials, a senior US military official familiar with the meeting told the newspaper.
The meeting was attended by the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, the head of Central Command, Gen David H. Petraeus, and the commander of US and allied troops in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley A. McChrystal, the official said.
“The Pakistanis want to be part of discussions that could involve reconciliation,” the official said.
Pakistan’s desire to work with the United States in an Afghanistan endgame is likely to be discussed by National Security Adviser Gen James L. Jones in Islamabad. So far, the United States has been more eager to push Pakistan to fight the Taliban than to negotiate with them, and has not endorsed Pakistan’s new approach.
At the Jan 26 Nato meeting with General Kayani, US military commanders reviewed the list of hardware, MI-17 helicopters, ammunition for Cobra attack helicopters, body armour, armoured vehicles, that has been put on a fast track to the Pakistani military as an inducement to take on the Haqqanis, the newspaper said.
But Gen Kayani was unmoved. “There is no need at this point to start a steamroller operation in North Waziristan,” he told journalists last week.
Last month he took Gen McChrystal on a helicopter tour over the mountains of the Swat Valley, where Pakistani paratroopers landed last summer to flush out Taliban insurgents.
The message was that the Pakistani Army still regarded India as its primary enemy and was stretched too thin to open a new front.
The Pakistani offer makes clear that any stable solution to the war will have to take into account Afghanistan’s neighbours, in a region where Pakistan, India, China, Iran and others all jostle for power.
Pakistani officials familiar with Gen Kayani’s thinking said that even as the United States added troops to Afghanistan, he had determined that the Americans were looking for a fast exit. The impression, they said, was reinforced by President Barack Obama’s scant mention of the war in his State of the Union address.