Nirupama Subramainan

ISLAMABAD: Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Monday sought to allay concerns over Pakistan’s role in the newly emerging scenario in Afghanistan, saying his country did not want a “Talibanised” Afghanistan.

“We cannot wish for anything for Afghanistan that we don’t wish for ourselves,” General Kayani told a press conference for Western correspondents, adding Pakistan did not want a “Talibanised’ Afghanistan.

His remarks came days after the international community reached a broad agreement that the conflict in Afghanistan could be ended only by talking to the Taliban.

Pakistan believes it can play a major role in these efforts with its past experience of dealing with the Taliban. It was one of only three countries that recognised the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and is still thought to maintain extensive contacts with the Afghan Taliban.

But the international community is also apprehensive that Pakistan might try to impose its own agenda in Afghanistan through the Taliban to secure its interests in the region over India.

General Kayani, who has rarely held on-record briefings for the media, and who met foreign journalists for the first time — Indian journalists were not invited — said Pakistan was not interested in controlling Afghanistan.

Pakistan only wanted a “peaceful, stable and friendly” Afghanistan, he said, explaining that the concept of “strategic depth,” long touted by Pakistani security strategists as a means to counter India, did not mean control over Afghanistan.

General Kayani revealed that Pakistan had offered to help the United States and NATO train Afghan security forces, something India is also said to be keen on. According to the Inter-Services Public Relations, he told the journalists that the Pakistan military operations in 2009 had helped to improve the situation in Afghanistan in terms of “squeezing of spaces, better control of areas and continuous logistics flow.”

Highlighting the Pakistan effort, he said his country had contributed a lot to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan.

Gen. Kayani said Pakistan had suffered “the maximum” in terms of human and economic losses due to terrorism and violent extremism. “But it has not dented the resolve of the nation and its armed forces to fight and finish terrorism in accordance with its national interests.”

The world could help Pakistan with a “proper understanding of our concerns and issues,” he said, without elaborating.