By Ali Imran
WASHINGTON, Dec 13 : As the United States strives for smooth 2014 drawdown from Afghanistan, Washington’s outgoing special representative Marc Grossman has confirmed that both Islamabad and Kabul are working on a roadmap for Afghan-led peace, after a decade of internal strife and war in that country.
“Over time as Pakistan and Afghanistan have talked about how Pakistan can best support an Afghan-led peace process that they have been moving toward working on some type of roadmap together, and all I understand from my friends in Pakistan and my friends in Afghanistan is when (Afghan) Foreign Minister Rassoul visited Pakistan some weeks ago they did start to talk about some specific roadmap and the Afghans had one,” Grossman said.
The U.S. diplomat, however, said he has not personally seen any roadmap document.
“But I’m sure that this roadmap and this conversation about how we can all support an Afghan-led peace process is extremely important,” he told VOA Urdu Service in an interview conducted by Ayesha Tanzeem.
The U.S. special envoy was not aware of the details of the Kabul-drafted plan, which, according to media reports, might give governance position to Afghan Taliban.
“Our job it seems to me, like the job in Pakistan, is to support an Afghan-led peace process, Afghan-owned, so that’s why a year ago we started this core group of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US which has now met eight times to talk about the future.”
More particularly, Grossman acknowledged the importance of Pakistan and Afghanistan doing a lot together bilaterally.
“But we’ve always said inside that core group that the most important conversation is the one between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and I’ve always thought once we got that conversation going we could just stand back and Afghanistan and Pakistan will do a lot together and I think the Pakistanis certainly in the last year, have been talking more and more and more about an Afghan-led peace process, if you look at the statement issued after Ambassador Rassoul visited Pakistan just a few weeks ago I think it is a remarkable piece of paper and certainly one we support.”
Grossman’s comments come in the wake of stepped up efforts by both Pakistan and Afghanistan in search of viable peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. To that end, Islamabad recently released a number of Afghan Taliban prisoners in response to Kabul’s request.
The latest meeting between top leaders took place in Turkey this week as presidents Asif Ali Zardari and Hamid Karzai agreed to work for peace. The two countries’ foreign ministers’ met in Islamabad earlier while Afghan High Peace Council Chairman Salahuddin Rabbani was also in Washington after his visit to Pakistan.
Regarding US-Pakistan ties, Grossman, who leaves this week the position as special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan said the bilateral relationship – which experienced a hard time throughout 2011 – is now improving.
“I think the relationship is getting better because people on both sides realize there is business to get done between the U.S. and Pakistan and I don’t mean commercial business but international business,” he said.
According to experts the US-Pakistan relationship is assuming much greater importance as Washington-led allies seek a successful end to Afghan war in 2014. Islamabad’s support is seen as crucial to determining the success of immediate counterterrorism work, Afghan peace process as well as military withdrawal.
In the interview, Grossman expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s own democratic development, saying the civilian government’s completion of its mandated-term and the transition next year would be a landmark development.
“I think one of the most important, interesting things that will happen next year in Pakistan that I will certainly be watching as a private citizen is that the election- to have a Pakistani parliament finish its term and turn over to another civilian government and I think that that’s a hugely important thing, and one of the things that we have tried to do in our public dialogue and in our conversations with Pakistanis is stress our support for civil society in Pakistan, for this kind of pluralism, the tolerance, and the ability of civilian government to manage Pakistan. So I think it will be very exciting that there will be an election and a parliament will finish and a new one will start. “
Grossman recalled his first posting as diplomat in Islamabad and said as he returns to private life, he would miss the Pakistani people he worked with over the years.
“Oh the people. As you know, I had the good fortune to serve in Pakistan in 1977 to 1979 as a brand new junior officer when I was a diplomat and all diplomats leave their first posts with something special in their hearts and so it’s the people of Pakistan. People who are resilient, educated, want to be part of this world, want to be part of the conversation, so I’ll miss my friends there and I’ll miss all the people I’ve worked with,” he said, when asked what he would miss about Pakistan.
- Grossman Pledges Continued US Support to Afghanistan, Pakistan (voanews.com)
- Pakistan, Afghanistan moving ahead on peace plan that cuts U.S. peace role (miamiherald.com)
- Afghanistan, Pakistan pursue peace despite attack (dawn.com)
- Taliban release helps Afghan-Pakistani ties and raises hopes for peace deal (guardian.co.uk)
- Afghanistan, Pakistan Pursue Peace Despite Attack (abcnews.go.com)