Pakistan Reaches Out To Afghan TalibanJanuary 24, 2010
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is reaching out to “all levels” of the Afghan Taliban in a bid to encourage reconciliation in its war-torn neighbour, the foreign ministry said on Saturday.
US President Barack Obama has said a political solution is needed to stabilise Afghanistan and emphasised that success would not be possible without the support of Pakistan.
“We are trying to reach out to them (Taliban) at all levels and all of us would like that our efforts should bring some results, but at this point in time it is very difficult to say,” Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said of Pakistan’s efforts.
The Afghan government is preparing a reintegration plan with the Taliban that targets lower to mid-level Taliban fighters, but has not focused on more senior leaders of the insurgency.
International donors are meeting in London on Jan 28 when Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to seek their support for his reintegration plan.
Mr Basit said it was important that there should be reconciliation at all levels and that Pakistan was helping in this regard. He declined to give details.
“Whether or not our efforts will yield results, we will see,” he told Reuters in an interview. “We don’t want to discuss the specifics. There are efforts being made and we are trying to win over those Taliban or forces who are ‘reconcilable’. Let’s see.”
Asked specifically whether Pakistan was targeting top-level leaders, Mr Basit said: “We are trying at all levels but where we succeed is another matter.”
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates visited Pakistan this week and urged it to root out Afghan Taliban based in its north-western border enclaves, from where they have been orchestrating an intensified insurgency in Afghanistan.
UNDER PRESSURE: Pakistan has repeatedly told Washington that it is already fighting a home-grown Taliban and does not have the resources to open up new fronts against Afghan militant groups based in its northwest. Such groups include the Haqqani network which, the US military says, is the biggest threat in Afghanistan.
The United States has intensified drone attacks in Pakistan’s northwest after a deadly attack on US intelligence agents in Afghanistan’s Khost province on Dec 30. Pakistan complains the attacks are an affront to its sovereignty and has asked the United States for drone technology as well as armed drones to do the job itself.
“We do need drones — unmanned vehicles — which are capable also of firing missiles,” the FO spokesman said. “Pakistan is capable of handling these drone attacks militarily, but we would not like to unnecessarily ratchet up problems with the US,” he added. During his visit, Mr Gates offered a dozen unarmed surveillance drones.
Mr Basit said his government was considering the offer, but reiterated that Pakistan wanted armed drones.
Mr Gates also urged Pakistani to expand military operations to North Waziristan, but was told it could take six months to a year before this happened, Mr Basit said. “If we expand our operations then that will require us to pull out from the eastern border which under the circumstances is not possible,” he said, referring to the border with India.
“That is a serious issue for us and we hope that at the end of the day our friends, the Americans, will be cognisant of our security perceptions.”
Mr Basit complained the United States was behind on delivering funds promised to pay for anti-militant efforts.
The United States says Pakistan has denied visas for auditors and other US officials needed to ensure the money is spent properly.
Mr Gates annoyed Pakistan when he said on Wednesday in New Delhi that India might lose its patience with Pakistan after any repeat of a Mumbai-style attack and militants in the region might use this to provoke the two rivals to war.
“Such a statement was very unhelpful and un-diplomatic …These can be exploited by India,” Mr Basit said.—Reuters