ISLAMABAD: US Secr-etary of State Antony J Blinken, Wednesday, held a telephonic conversation with Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and discussed "latest developments" in Afghan peace process ahead of the Biden administration’s plan for American forces withdrawal from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 terror attacks.
During the telephonic conversation, according to the statement released by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), matters of mutual interest, regional security situation including latest developments in Afghan peace process, and bilateral cooperation in various fields were discussed.
It stated that the COAS said that Pakistan will always support “Afghan led-Afghan Owned” Peace Process based on mutual consensus of all stakeholders.
“The US dignitary also acknowledged Pakistan’s continuous efforts for peace and stability in the region and pledged to further enhance bilateral relations between both countries,” it stated.
The telephonic call comes ahead of US President Joe Biden’s plan to announce US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021 instead of May 1 deadline, set in the February 29 deal between the US and Afghan Taliban.
Taliban have already warned the US and other foreign forces against missing the May 1 deadlines and promised to renew attacks on US and NATO forces, if the foreign troops are not out by the deadline.
To the question of US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said that Pakistan supports "orderly" and "responsible" withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan as "we believe that a precipitous withdrawal would create a vacuum for spoilers."
He said that the Afghan peace process made significant progress last year.
“We believe that it is critical that the progress made in the peace process is maintained and further built upon in order to achieve its desire[d] objective of a peaceful political settlement in Afghanistan…All parties must work together for an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement,” he added.
In a latest move, the Taliban also announced not to remain part of any meeting with regard to the Afghan peace process, including the forthcoming meeting in Turkey, until the complete withdrawal of all the foreign forces.
Mohammad Naeem, spokesman for the Taliban office in Qatar, in a statement on Tuesday, stated: “Until all foreign forces completely withdraw from our homeland, the Islamic Emirate will not participate in any conference that shall make decisions about Afghanistan.”
“The IEA [Taliban] performs its works with consultations according to the guidance of the noble religion of Islam and then adopts the stance whatsoever is decided in the result of the consultations,” the Taliban spokesman further stated in a brief statement, which he shared on Twitter.
The Taliban’s decision came as Turkey announced an international peace conference on Afghanistan due to be held in Istanbul from April 24 to May 4 – part of the international efforts to revive long-stalled Doha peace talks.
Senior analyst Lt Gen (retired) Talat Masood said though it is clear that Biden wants to withdraw the American forces from Afghanistan, yet he also seems concerned over the post-withdrawal situation.
As per the February 2020 peace deal, he added that Taliban have committed that they would not allow the Afghan soil to be used by terrorist elements against the US or any other country, but the Americans still seem to be worried for the future of the country, as there are other terror outfits such as Daesh and al-Qaeda who are also believed to be hiding in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan is insisting on a responsible withdrawal, as it believes that any hasty or disorderly pull out may create a security vacuum which would have repercussions for the security Pakistan, Afghanistan and the entire region,” he added.
Meanwhile, Japanese Ambassador to Pakistan Kuninori Matsuda called on Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa in Rawalpindi on Wednesday and discussed regional security situation and measures to enhance bilateral cooperation in various fields. The Army Chief said Pakistan values its relations with Japan and acknowledged its efforts for regional stability. The Japanese Ambassador praised Pakistan’s role for peace and stability in the region particularly Afghan peace process and vowed to further enhance ties with Pakistan.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021