ISLAMABAD -  Pakistan’s top diplomat will reproach the US for its new Afghanistan policy at the United Nations General Assembly next week, saying the Trump administration is following a militaristic approach that has already failed.

In Pakistan’s first strident response to the US policy, Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif told The Wall Street Journal that he couldn’t understand how the American military could succeed now in Afghanistan when it hadn’t during the “surge” under the Obama administration with a force eight times as large as the one now planned.

He instead called for peace talks with the Taliban, which could be arranged if Washington worked with countries in the region that have influence over the Taliban militant group.

“They are pursuing a folly, a strategy that has already failed,” Asif said. “Force will not solve any problem, it has not solved problems in the past.” Asif said tell UN members that “peace should return to this area and force is not the solution.” 

Asif cancelled a trip to the US for talks with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Islamabad also rejected a planned visit to Pakistan by the senior US official for the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, Alice Wells. Instead, Asif toured the region, visiting US adversaries in China, Iran and Turkey, saying afterward that they agreed that a political solution was needed. Asif said he would meet at the UN with his Russian counterpart to get Moscow on board with this plan.

“I think Americans should be more realistic and more pragmatic about their approach in Afghanistan,” said Asif. “They have already lost more than 40% of territory to the Taliban. How do you keep on fighting with them?”

Officials from the White House, the US Embassy in Pakistan and the US State Department in Washington didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Asif said now was the time for talks and that neighbours were willing to help. A four-country group intended to prod such talks, Pakistan, China, the US and Afghanistan, which hasn’t met for over a year, could be expanded to include other countries with influence over the Taliban, he said.

Pakistan’s influence over the militant group had waned, he said, so other countries with contacts with the Taliban also needed to be involved, including Iran, China and Russia. The Taliban have indicated that they are willing to talk to the US on a timetable for its withdrawal, but not to the Afghan government.

Asif also questioned the US assertion that Pakistan allowed sanctuaries for Afghan militants. “They don’t need sanctuaries on our territory. They have plenty of territory which Americans have lost to them in Afghanistan during the last 15 years,” said Asif. “This is scapegoating you know, nothing else.”

Asif said it was America’s militaristic policy across the Muslim world that has inflamed much of the violence. “There is chaos from Afghanistan to Libya, you tell what is the common denominator in this whole chaos,” said Asif. “Has American policy in this whole region, the Middle East and our region, brought peace dividends to anywhere?”



Monitoring Desk