Pakistan warns against post-2014 security vacuum in Afghanistan

Map of Pakistan

Map of Pakistan (Photo credit: Omer Wazir)

By Ali Imran

WASHINGTON, Sep 21:  Describing a peaceful and stable Afghanistan as vital to Pakistan’s stability and regional peace, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Friday warned against any “security vacuum” that may occur when the strife-torn country moves towards the 2014 transition.

Ms Khar also categorically said that Pakistan seeks no strategic depth in its landlocked western neighbour but said her country fears the fallout of Afghan unrest, if the security does not improve in the country.

In this respect, she referred to the spillover of unrest from Afghanistan into Pakistan and the unintended consequences that Pakistan had to grapple with in the aftermath of Soviet pullout from Afghanistan when the US-led international partners disengaged from Afghanistan.

“We are, of course, very very concerned about the state — because we know the entry goals in Afghanistan were very very different than what is appearing to be now,” she said at the discussion, anchored by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

“What we want from the world, from the 49 nations operating in Afghanistan is that there is no security vacuum left behind,” she emphasized.

Speaking at an event organized by the Council on Foreign Relations, the top Pakistani diplomat also strongly defended her country’s anti-terror performance and said under the democratic government, led by President Asif Ali Zardari, Islamabad has made it clear that the fight against militancy is the country’s own fight.

Ms Khar pointed out to the gathering that many of the challenges Pakistan today faces are rooted in historical events.

“As we look to challenges, we face within the region, Pakistan has grave concerns about what is going to happen in the future.”

“It is not ambition but anxiety which drives our interest in Afghanistan. We have no favourites in terms of ethnicity— Pakistan is on a track to develop relations with Afghanistan  as a sovereign equal,”  the foreign minister said.

Islamabad, she said, fears for instability in Afghanistan, because instability from Afghanistan permeates through 2000 km border directly into Pakistan’s territory as it has in the last three decades.

She told the gathering of experts and intellectuals that gathering that as much as 53 000 people cross Pak-Afghan border everyday.

“We seek no strategic depth in Afghanistan,” she declared categorically.

“What we seek relations with is a peaceful, stable Afghanistan, a sovereign and independent Afghanistan.”

“We have no intentions nor any national interest to impose any type of government in Afghanistan. It is for the Afghans to do so.”

“It is important that we are able to unload the past and move into the future. Because I fear that if we are not able to that we will see ourselves inadvertently repeating the same mistake.

Drawing attention of the American experts and intelligentsia to Pakistan’s unparalleled sacrifices in the fight against terror, she said the country has been gone through 350 suicide bombings in the last few years, while there was just one such attack before the 9/11 events.

The economic losses are a staggering 70 to 100 billioin dollars.

The biggest challenge the anti-terror allies face in the region is to “collectively fight the mindset” that was encouraged in the jehad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and has haunted the region as a leftover of events three decades back.

“During the Afghan war , we all collectively  chose to harness Jehadi ideology to fight the Soviets as instrument of war. It was done on our soil.”

“Pakistan was left with the mindset, arms, ammunition, the bombs with the Kalashnikov and the narcotics trade and till today we are suffering the consequence of each one of those.”

She said lessons must be learnt from the past for a better future.

On barometers that may help determine the Afghan situation, she said until about 2007 a small stream of Afghan refugees was going back but now the trend has reversed.

“That does not give a lot of confidence that we are achieving the goals we set for ourselves collectively.”

Secondly, she referred to the recent the incidents of green-on–blue attacks in Afghanistan and the decision not to go through joint training, terming them as “huge concerns” for Pakistan.

“These are huge concerns because we will not be able to change our location.

We will not be able to change our geography. We must make sure that the security situation in Afghanistan is good enough for us to be able to build a peaceful and stble neighborhood.”

Thirdly, she said militants using the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan have stormed into Pakistani territory in hundreds attacked the security forces inside Pakistani territory. In one incident, the militants infiltrating from Afghanistan slaughtered 17 Pakistani soldiers.

“All of these are not signs that inspire a lot of confidence in the security situation in Afghanistan and we fear that through the long border we will have to face more challenges in the future. “

Moving forward, she said, “we should get out of the trust deficit mantra.”

The “primary core national interest of Pakistan is a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, she said.

“The best possible scenario that we can think of in 2014 is that elections take place in Afghanistan, all Afghan groups are able to demonstrate their strength, their will to the election process, not through violence, and that is the immediate future that we must be working together. “

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