A senior U.S. diplomat has called on Pakistan and Afghanistan to enhance border cooperation to counter violent extremism plaguing the region and advised against “employing militancy as an instrument of policy.”
James Dobbins, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, held detailed talks with Pakistani political and military leaders that largely focused on Islamabad’s counter-militancy efforts and its contributions to the U.S.-led international campaign aimed at stabilizing neighboring Afghanistan.
Speaking to Pakistan’s state-run television late Friday, he said the United States is supportive of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s efforts to engage the Pakistani Taliban in talks for ending its militancy. He added that Pakistani leaders are also determined to use force if necessary to confront the security challenges facing their country.
“We support Pakistan’s efforts to establish the rule of law in Pakistan to eliminate violent extremism, not just the violent extremists who attack Pakistan, but the violent extremists who operate from Pakistani territory and attack neighboring societies," said Dobbins. "We believe that the Nawaz government and the Pakistani army are also committed to moving to reduce and eventually eliminate this kind of violent extremism and we think that would be very positive in terms of Afghanistan’s future development."
Pakistan has long been accused of supporting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and allowing it to use Pakistani areas for cross-border raids. However, Islamabad recently accused Kabul of sheltering Pakistani militants and helping them stage attacks inside Pakistan.
Dobbins acknowledged cross-border militancy as a mutual problem that the United States is prepared to help both countries address. He also urged them not to officially support militant forces.
“I think all of the states of the region need to avoid employing militancy as an instrument of policy, [which] has been a long term strategy that has created a cancer in societies and, in particular, in Pakistan society, which is now threatening the actual existence of the state and its democratic institutions,” he said.
The American envoy avoided direct comments on Afghanistan’s reluctance to formally recognize its porous, 2,500-kilometer border with Pakistan as an international frontier. So long as both countries continue to postpone any kind of formal resolution on the larger legal issues involving their common border, he said, Kabul should at least prepare to work with Islamabad to regulate cross-border movements to discourage militant activity.
Dobbins said that Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan under Prime Minister Sharif have improved, admitting that Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s recent criticism of Islamabad has caused friction.
“There continue to be irritations," said Dobbins. "President Karzai has been critical of Pakistan — he has been equally critical of the United States, to be fair. I think both of the likely candidates for the presidency in Afghanistan — and it looks probable that those will be Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, although we are still awaiting final results and I don’t want to prejudice those — will look for a close relationship with the United States, and I think both of them will also look to an improved relationship with Pakistan."
Dobbins also said Pakistan’s role in promote peace and reconciliation processes with the Taliban in Afghanistan remain important.
Although the Taliban remains unwilling to meet with the current Afghan leadership, he said that the United States is hopeful that the outcome of the presidential election and the impending reduction of Western forces in the country will compel insurgents to re-evaluate their position an consider engaging government entities, which, he said, will be widely recognized and broadly respected.