Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi urged the Biden administration to “persevere” and “not reverse things” the Afghan peace agreement signed last year in Doha between the United States and the Taliban.
In an interview with Al Jazeera that was released Thursday, the foreign minister made the remarks. He said that Joe Biden, who on Wednesday was sworn in as president of America, “should realise there is an opportunity in Afghanistan”
“Push them forward, because we have begun to move in the right direction after a long time,” Qureshi said.
During the peace talks between the Afghan Taliban and the US, which led to a historic agreement signed in Doha in February last year, Pakistan played the role of mediator. According to a joint statement issued at the time by the parties, if the Taliban kept up their end of the bargain, a complete withdrawal of both US and coalition forces will take place within 14 months of the agreement being signed.
Within 135 days of signing the pact, the US committed itself to reducing the number of its troops in Afghanistan from 13,000 to 8,600 and to collaborating with its allies to decrease the number of coalition forces in Afghanistan proportionately during the same span. There are 2,500 US troops currently in Afghanistan.
However, earlier this week, Biden’s candidate for Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, indicated that a rise in violence in Afghanistan could lead to the US maintaining some of its troops.
In his confirmation hearing, Blinken said, “We want to retain some capacity to deal with any resurgence of terrorism, which is what brought us there in the first place,” We must take a closer look at what was really negotiated. I was not yet privy to it.
US President Biden said that while decreasing the number of combat forces in Afghanistan, he would not remove the involvement of the US military.
Last year, during a debate between Democratic presidential candidates, Biden said: “We can prevent the United States from being the victim of terror coming out of Afghanistan by providing for bases — insist the Pakistanis provide bases for us to air lift from and to move against what we know.”
Meanwhile, during his confirmation hearing earlier this week, Biden’s defence secretary candidate, Gen Lloyd J Austin, described Pakistan as a “essential partner” in the Afghan peace process.
The foreign minister further claimed that in Afghanistan there were “spoilers” who “have benefited from the war economy” and did not want the peace process to succeed. He also warned that there were “elements from outside who do not share our vision, which is a peaceful, stable, prosperous Afghanistan”
Ultimately, Qureshi said, it was the duty of the Afghan leadership to ensure that the peace process succeeds.
“It’s their country, it’s their future.”
Since former President Donald Trump ended security assistance to Pakistan, Pakistan’s alliance with the previous US administration had begun to be thorny. However, after Pakistan sponsored talks between the US and the Afghan Taliban, relations strengthened.
Islamabad has consistently stressed that Pakistan, which should be ‘Afghan-led and Afghan-owned,’ has everything to gain from stability in Afghanistan.
They (the administration of Biden) should embrace what, I think, is a convergence of interests,” Qureshi said in the interview.”
Our strategy, thinking, aspirations and common visions are very much in line with the new administration’s objectives. And it will further construct the convergence.
Qureshi also said that Islamabad’s strong ties with China should not be seen by the US as a ‘zero-sum game.’
“They [the US] ought to come, compete and invest,” said Qureshi, referring to China’s investment in Pakistan. The Foreign Minister also said that, if necessary, Pakistan was also willing to mediate between the US and China.
Pakistan has historically had a chance and has built bridges between the two. “In this environment where change is taking place, […] Pakistan can be a bridge-builder,” Qureshi said. He related to the mediation attempts by Islamabad between Washington and Beijing in 1972 to promote the historic visit of US President Richard Nixon to China at the time.