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‘Presence of foreign troops complementary to peace efforts’

AT Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The presence of foreign troops is complementary to peace efforts in Afghanistan, a top NATO official told Salam Watandar in an exclusive interview.

Ambassador Cornelius Zimmermann, the NATO Senior Civilian Representative, has said first there is a need for the peace deal, and then negotiators have to think about how check and balances can be built around it, and here role of the international community would come to play.

“I can just assure you, this mission (NATO-led Resolute Support) has received no orders to downsize, and I would also like to point out that President Donald Trump said in his State of the Union speech he is supporting peaceful resolution of the conflict in this country. And, that is why NATO is in Afghanistan. The Resolute Support Mission is here to create conditions for peace”, he said.

Ambassador Zimmermann hailed the wise and courageous moves by President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani to reach out to the Taliban for the offer of unconditional peace talks as well as the landmark ceasefire last year. “For many people, this was a defining moment. I am encouraged by marches for peace by the Afghans”, he said.

Facilitating peace talks, not negotiating the withdrawal of troops

On the diplomatic efforts of the U.S Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, he said these efforts are focused on facilitating peace talks, and not negotiating the withdrawal of troops.

Responding to a question, he said inclusivity of the peace process is key to sustainable peace in Afghanistan. “I would like to encourage all Afghans, wherever they are, rich, poor, educated, uneducated, men or women, living in cities and the countryside, to think and speak about peace, and try to have a nationwide Pan-Afghan dialogue for peace”, he said. Zimmerman said people should make their voice heard to build peace and better future of the country.

“The more people own this solution the better the guarantee would be the peace would be sustainable”, he said adding the international community is willing to help complete what they started.

Pakistan has contacts with the Taliban

On the role of Pakistan, he said the good solution of the Afghan question requires constructive cooperation of all neighboring countries. “They (neighbors) have to understand creating stability in Afghanistan is in their own interests. Having an unstable neighbor will not play to your (neighbors) own advantage”.

He noted Afghanistan is a country with a very young population, and has a central geographic location. “Pakistan, regardless of its relations with other nations, has wasted interests in good relations with Afghanistan, and prerequisite for good relations is internal stability”.

He said Pakistan has contacts with the Taliban. “And, we would like them (Pakistanis) to use these contacts, for the objective of peace process in this country (Afghanistan). We have conveyed to the Taliban, time and again, that their only option is at negotiating table, there is no military solution to this conflict in Afghanistan”.

He said NATO would welcome signals from Pakistan encouraging the Taliban to seek negotiation with the Afghan government.

On the high casualty rate among the Afghan forces, he hailed the resilience and professionalism of the nascent Afghan Security and Defense Forces, and stressed more investment in the Special Forces and the Afghan Air Force would help bring down the high casualty rate.

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