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Any wait-and-see approach on Afghanistan tantamount to abandonment: NSA Moeed

  • Urges regional and Western countries to sit together and draw specific plans for immediate humanitarian relief
Published October 8, 2021

National Security Adviser (NSA) Moeed Yusuf has said that a wait-and-see approach on Afghanistan is tantamount to abandoning the county and has called for holding a major donor conference to formulate immediate humanitarian and economic relief plans for averting risks of instability and terror threat to the entire world.

“A wait-and-see approach, although more politically tenable for many countries, would be tantamount to abandonment ... a starting point could be a major donor conference where regional players and Western countries sit together and draw up specific plans for immediate humanitarian and economic relief,” wrote Yusuf in an article published in the US-based journal Foreign Affairs on Thursday.

The NSA further stated that US President Joe Biden was right to end the US military mission in Afghanistan, and “today, Afghanistan faces a choice: it can either walk the arduous path of peace or revert to civil unrest. The latter will have catastrophic repercussions for the Afghan people and spillover effects for the neighborhood and beyond.”

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Yusuf argued that Pakistan does not wield any extraordinary influence over the new rulers in Kabul, as both monetary assistance and legitimacy for the Taliban can only come (or not) from the world’s major powers.

“History will judge us very poorly if we do not create the most conducive possible environment to push them in a healthy direction—for the collective benefit of Afghans and the world.”

He said any failure to do so will leave Pakistan to bear the brunt of any negative spillover from Afghanistan. “We have already carried more than our share of the burden,” he wrote, referring to Pakistan’s sacrifices in the US-led war on terror.

Commenting on former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's regime, the NSA said it had been unable to sustain itself, and "propping it up with billions more dollars would only have delayed its inevitable collapse".

Yusuf said after the Afghan people, Pakistan had been the "greatest victim" of conflicts in Afghanistan.

"The Soviet invasion in 1979 and the subsequent US-led military campaign after 9/11 were not of Pakistan’s making. Yet our society, polity, and economy bore the brunt of the conflict over the last four decades."

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In 2001, he recalled, Pakistan had joined America's war on terror "against the very same actors who were hailed as freedom fighters when Washington and Islamabad together trained and backed them to defeat the Soviets in the 1980s".

After the 9/11 attacks, the US issued an ultimatum to then-president General Pervez Musharraf that he was either “with us or against us”, the NSA added, saying that Musharraf, under pressure, provided the US "virtually unconditional support", including access to airbases and ground and air supply routes.

"The post-9/11 decision to launch a military campaign against Afghanistan’s erstwhile freedom fighters, many of whom had a deep cultural and ethnic affiliation with tribesmen in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border regions, resulted in a massive insurgency against the Pakistani state," he explained.

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“Over 50 militant groups sprang up, seeking to punish the Pakistani state for collaborating with the United States. They targeted our cities and massacred our children; 3.5 million civilians were displaced from their homes at the height of this onslaught," he said. " In the last 20 years, Pakistan has suffered over 80,000 casualties as a result of terrorist attacks, as well as over $150 billion in economic losses.”

Discussing US-Pakistan ties, Yusuf wrote that “The United States’ solution [in Afghanistan] was to achieve a total victory over the Taliban. Even when Washington began considering negotiations with the group, many American officials saw it as a means of creating internal fractures within the Taliban rather than negotiating an even-handed deal.”

The NSA said Pakistan, on the other hand, had been pointing out to the "the folly of its plans".

"Pakistan urged the United States and its Nato ( North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) allies to recognise that Al Qaeda had been dealt a severe blow and that, even as Western powers continued their mission against international terrorist groups, they needed to recognise that the Taliban were a political reality in Afghanistan."

NSA stressed that the "rapid collapse" of the Ghani administration in Afghanistan "has left no doubt that the [Afghan] government’s failures were not of Pakistan’s making".

“Corruption, bad governance, refusal of Afghans to stand behind their government and state, and the 300,000-strong Afghan National Security Forces’ choice not to fight against a lightly armed insurgency lie at the heart of the return of the Taliban.”

Yet, some voices in Western capitals continued to scapegoat Pakistan for this failure, he regretted, adding that blaming Pakistan was not only factually incorrect, but it also "undermines the spirit of international cooperation necessary to end the cycle of violence that has devastated Afghanistan".

Discussing a way forward for Afghanistan, the NSA said, "Afghanistan deserves peace and prosperity, and a blame game among international actors will not get us there. Nor will a repeat of the mistakes of the 1990s, when the United States abandoned Afghanistan and sanctioned Pakistan."

He said the prudent way forward was for the international community to engage constructively with the new government in Kabul.

"The goal must be to create the conditions for Afghan civilians to earn a respectable livelihood and to live in peace. This will require the international community, especially the countries who were present in Afghanistan for two decades, to play a positive role in leveraging their influence to further the cause of peace and stability".


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