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Pakistani Official Says Taliban Can Outwait the West

  • Lisa Schlein

Pakistani Official Says Taliban Can Outwait the West

Pakistani Official Says Taliban Can Outwait the West

The Pakistani ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva says most Pashtuns in Afghanistan, whether they are Taliban or not, see the United States and NATO as a presence of occupation. He says the Taliban, who are indigenous to Afghanistan, are in a good position to come out on top because it can outwait “the enemy.”

Pakistani Ambassador, Zamir Akram, says after nearly 10 years of war, promises of economic development have not been fulfilled and Afghan Pashtuns are disillusioned.

As a consequence, he says Afghans look at the United States and NATO as occupying powers. And, this he says feeds into the kind of propaganda the Taliban are eager to promote.

He says the use of force is only one element in a larger political strategy needed to oust or contain the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

“A lot of the intelligence in the U.S. claims that they have degraded al-Qaida and Taliban leadership,” Ambassador Akram said. “But, killing people or killing even the leaders is not, at least in our view, going to lead to a solution because these leaders will be replaced. The Taliban see this as a war in which time is on their side. They can wait it out and once we start talking about exit strategies and everybody is talking about exit timelines, then they even have an idea about how long they are going to have to wait.”

The ambassador says his government sees collateral damage from drone and other aerial attacks as a major problem. He notes Pakistan shares the West’s objectives to fight and defeat the Taliban and other extremists. But, collateral damage, undermines his government.

He says U.S.-led attacks are seen as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty and territorial integrity.

U.S. President Barak Obama, and other American officials have criticized Pakistan for not doing enough to curb fighters within its borders who attack US-led forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

This week, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in the region to talk about security.

While in Kabul, he said that Pakistan needed to do more to help the U.S. in its battle against Taliban and other fighters in Afghanistan.

And, after arriving in Islamabad a few days later for talks with the country's president, Asif Ali Zardari, and senior government officials, Mr. Biden said more pressure on the Taliban from Pakistan's side of the border is needed.

Ambassador Akram says people in Pakistan also are uneasy about American statements that they want the Pakistanis to do more to defeat the Taliban. He says Pakistanis are concerned that the Americans want their forces to go into northern Waziristan, to do more to kill and destroy the Taliban network in Afghanistan.

But, the ambassador said Pakistanis view the opening of a dialogue initiated by the West and the government in Afghanistan with the Taliban with some suspicion.

“From our perspective, when you ask us to go after these guys in north Waziristan or in other parts or wherever they are, what you are asking us is to pull your chestnuts out of the fire and be the bad guys,” he added. So, we kill them, while you talk to them and that is not something that is not seen as a viable approach from our perspective because we have to live with these people in the future. We cannot have an exit strategy from Afghanistan.”

Since 2001, he says Pakistan has incurred a cost of $40 billion from its own resources in destroyed infrastructure and in diverting funds away from other essential expenditures.