FM Qureshi says US must remain engaged in Afghanistan after troops leave

FM Qureshi says US must remain engaged in Afghanistan after troops leave

Washington (Web Desk): Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that the United States (US) must remain engaged in Afghanistan’s reconstruction even if it succeeds in withdrawing troops and ending the longest war of its history.

FM Qureshi is currently in the US on the third leg of his mission to defuse tensions in the Middle East, having already visited Tehran and Riyadh as part of Pakistan's diplomatic efforts.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Qureshi said that establishing peace in Afghanistan is a shared responsibility of all the stakeholders.

He warned the US not to neglect Afghanistan, as was seen after 1989 when Soviet troops pulled out under pressure from guerrillas fighters backed by Washington and Islamabad.

"Do not repeat the ’80s," he said, adding: "Even if there is a successful agreement, challenges will remain there, so the US and its friends and coalition partners will have to have a more responsible withdrawal.

"They should remain engaged — not to fight, but to rebuild."

Qureshi said he has seen a willingness from the Taliban to reduce the violence. “They are pragmatic and not foolish. They are also fatigued,” he said.

The foreign minister is set to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today on the growing momentum toward a deal between the US and the Taliban.

Meanwhile, discussing the situation in occupied Kashmir, FM Qureshi said Pakistan wanted a solution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the United Nations (UN) resolutions and the aspirations of Kashmiris.

He said India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had “misled” the international community about the Pulwama incident and "construed Pakistan’s desire for peace as its weakness", adding that Pakistan only wants “peace for development".

About ongoing standoff between the United States and Iran, Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Pakistan is a partner of peace and wants solution to the issue through diplomatic means.

The Foreign Minister also spoke on different aspects of Pak-US relations.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also met with the US lawmakers at Capitol Hill in Washington DC On Thursday.

The FM in his meeting with the US Senate leadership discussed US-Pakistan relationship, the situation in South Asia, the Afghan peace process, and recent developments in the Middle East.

Qureshi said he discussed Pakistan’s contribution to the Afghan peace process, recent tensions in the Middle East and India’s illegal lockdown in occupied Kashmir.

The foreign minister also held a meeting with US Under Secretary of Defence John Rood, the Foreign Office said in a statement.

In the meeting, the FM told Rood that Pakistan is “deeply concerned about prospects of any instability in its neighbourhood and [remains] ready to play its due role in finding a peaceful solution to the tensions between US and Iran”.

According to a statement released by the Foreign Office, FM Qureshi informed John Rood about his recent visits to Tehran and Riyadh and stressed the need for de-escalation and dialogue,

"Defence and security cooperation has been one of the defining features of our bilateral cooperation", the FM said.

"The US decision to revive the International Military Education and Training programme for Pakistan had significant symbolic value and was a welcome first step in further reviving bilateral military cooperation,” he said.

During the meeting, the two discussed various aspects of the Pakistan-US defence cooperation as well as the evolving regional situation.

According to the statement, Rood briefed the foreign minister about ongoing defence-related cooperation between the two countries.

Meanwhile, Qureshi brought the US undersecretary for defence up to speed on Pakistan’s efforts for peace and stability in South Asia, the statement added.

In his meeting with US Senator Lindsey Graham in Washington, the foreign minister reiterated Pakistan's firm commitment for playing a positive role for the peace and stability in the region.

FM Qureshi apprised the US Senator about Pakistan's efforts for reducing tensions in the region. He also informed the US Senator about his recent visits to Iran, Saudi Arabia.

During the meeting, the two sides exchanged views on Pak-US bilateral issues and situation in the region.

On the occasion, Senator Lindsey Graham appreciated Pakistan reconciliatory role for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

In a separate meeting with the US Congress’s Pakistan Caucus FM Qureshi emphasised that Islamabad values its relationship with Washington.

He also lauded the caucus for its role in “further improving bilateral relations between Pakistan and the United States”. He added that the relationship was on an “upward positive trajectory” since the last year.

"The foreign minister also briefed the caucus about government of Pakistan’s vision for socio-economic progress and human development in the country as well as Pakistan’s efforts for regional peace and prosperity including in facilitating peace in Afghanistan and defeating terrorism in the region,” Foreign Office said.

Qureshi underscored the significance of further strengthening people-to-people and inter-parliamentary linkages between the two countries and urged the lawmakers to play their role.

The Pakistan Caucus thanked Qureshi for his briefing and appreciated Pakistan’s invaluable contributions for regional peace and security.

"They also recognised the role of the Pakistani American community in the US which were contributing towards further strengthening bilateral linkages and relations,” said the Foreign Office.