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Afghan Taliban have safe havens inside Afghanistan: Maleeha Lodhi

23 June, 2017

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NEW YORK: Pakistan has told the UN Security Council that the Afghan Taliban’s “safe havens” are inside, not outside Afghanistan, given the large areas they control in the war-torn country.

Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN, said during a debate on Afghanistan that the resilience of the insurgency led by the Taliban cannot be explained away by convenient references to external ‘safe havens’ or ‘support centers’.

Pakistan, she asserted, was committed not to allow its territory to be used for terrorism against other countries. Pakistan’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb and the subsequent Radd-ul-Fassad had succeeded in eliminating all terrorist and militant groups from its tribal territory bordering Afghanistan.

She told the 15 member Council that Pakistan is “implementing border controls, including the fencing and monitoring of vulnerable sections of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border”.

In response to some provocative remarks made by her Afghan counterpart during the debate, she said, “As a country that continues to host over two million Afghan refugees, Pakistan expects gratitude and not hostility from the Afghan government.”

Her remarks centered around the need for a negotiated end to the Afghan war. She said that it had been Pakistan’s consistent position that peace could be restored only through a negotiated settlement between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban.

“Thishas also long been the consensus of the international community,” noting that a negotiated peace was also backed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who recently visited Kabul.

She said, “The promotion of a political settlement and the pursuit of a military solution in Afghanistan are mutually incompatible.”

Continued reliance on a military option, or enhancing troop numbers without an accompanying political strategy, would only lead to more violence and bloodshed, Ambassador Lodhi told the Security Council. “It would not yield a political settlement.”

Stressing the need to find a negotiated solution, she said, “Over the years, Pakistan has done what it can, when asked, to help facilitate such a negotiated settlement.”

She referred in this regard to the 2015 Murree talks and efforts under the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) framework; as also her country’s engagement with the Heart of Asia conference, International Contact Group, Moscow Format, and, most recently, the Kabul process, among others.

But she made it clear that while others could help by promoting a negotiated settlement, peace could only be negotiated when the Afghan parties desired it and eschewed a military solution.

She said, “Today there is every reason for the Afghan parties, and their friends, to pursue the path of a negotiated peace. All of them face a common threat from ISIS and the terrorist groups affiliated with it.”

“Among them, the TTP and the Jamatul Ahrar target Pakistan from their bases in Afghanistan.”

“There is no other country, which will gain more from peace in Afghanistan,” Ambassador Lodhi said. “We are confident that whatever our differences in the past, in the end, the deep bonds of religion, culture, history and geography between Pakistan and Afghanistan will assert themselves and produce an era of peaceful and mutually beneficial cooperation between our nations.”

Earlier, in a scathing report Tadamichi Yamamoto, the special representative of the secretary-general, warned that the recent surge of violent attacks in Afghanistan could signal a much worse and more fragile period ahead, as he called for urgent action to strengthen stability, including through improving the government’s credibility and urged all parties to exercise restraint and avoid violence.

“The months since my last briefing have been unusually tense in Afghanistan,”he said. “Without enhanced efforts by the National Unity Government to increase political inclusiveness, strengthen accountability, and improve the Government’s credibility, particularly in the security sector, we are likely to face more crises in an increasingly fragile environment.”

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