Smarting over the criticism of its civil and military establishment by the U.S. Administration in its report to the Congress on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Foreign Office on Thursday said Islamabad should not be held responsible for the failings of the counter-terrorism strategy adopted by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
To questions on the report, Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua again rejected the notion of Af-Pak in the U.S. scheme of things. “Emphatically'' stating that Islamabad does not share the U.S. assessment of the war on terror, she described the references to Pakistan in the report as unwarranted without flagging any particular mention.
According to the report, the denial of extremist safe havens will require greater cooperation with Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan and cannot be achieved through military means alone as sanitisation operations have to be backed with effective development strategies.
What has evidently irked the Pakistani military establishment is the criticism of the Army for its inability to prevent to the return of extremists to areas that had been cleared. Referring to the extension of Operation Brekhna to Bajaur tribal agency, the report notes that this was the third time in two years that the Army was conducting a clearing operation in the same agency; “a clear indicator of the inability of the Pakistan military and government to render cleared areas resistant to insurgent return''.
Stating that Pakistan has its own assessment of the strategy followed by ISAF vis-à-vis counter-terrorism and on issues of peace and security in Afghanistan, Ms. Janjua pointed out that the “Pakistani nation, its government, its security and armed forces'' had done much more than any one country to deal with the issues of terrorism.
Arguing that Pakistan had a clear strategy in dealing with terrorism and would be guided only by national interest, the Foreign Office said the report highlights the need for developing clarity and strategic coherence between all those involved in Afghanistan. “There is undoubtedly recognition of the need for genuine and honest engagement between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the U.S. to overcome what are perceived to be common challenges and shared goals. Pakistan will be engaging with the U.S. on these matters,'' she said.
As for the fate of the trilateral conference on Afghanistan which has been rescheduled twice this year — first by the U.S. in the wake of the Raymond Davis-related stand-off and then Pakistan pulled out after a drone attack in North Waziristan killed several civilians — she said Washington and Islamabad were in talks but nothing had been finalised as yet.
Keywords: war on terror