WASHINGTON — Pakistan should receive more credit for the support it has given the United States in the 17-year war in Afghanistan, and to blame Islamabad “for all the difficulty in Afghanistan is unfair,” that nation’s top diplomat said.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s new foreign minister, said “a new convergence is taking place” in the effort to bring peace to Afghanistan, centered on international efforts to find a conclusion to the conflict.
“We have to trust each other, there is no other way,” Qureshi said Wednesday during remarks at the U.S. Institute for Peace, in Washington.
Part of that trust centers on ending the finger-pointing and name-calling that disparages Pakistan’s effort to find peace in Afghanistan and deal with terrorism, he said.
“I invite members of Congress to see the differences we have made in the last year,” Qureshi said. “You decide where you want to go and we will take you there. It is important for you to see.”
Qureshi was ending a 10-day trip to the United States, in which he met senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Mile Pompeo, and top U.N. officials.
Qureshi said that “both sides have benefits” to bringing peace to Afghanistan and that there are positives to what is happening in international efforts to find reconciliation.
“We should always looks at the positive side,” he said. “It is easy to point out the negative.”
Qureshi said Pakistan’s contributions have been minimized or discounted. He noted that more than 500,000 supply containers have been shipped into Afghanistan from Pakistan, all treated as diplomatic cargo. He also said Pakistan has killed 950 terrorists and turned over 1,100 captured terrorists.
He also said that complaints about Pakistan permitting safe havens for the Taliban and others are unfounded, adding that Islamabad has “concerns about eliminating safe havens in Afghanistan under your watch,” referring to U.S. efforts.
“I think it is unfair not to point out the contributions Pakistan has made to your successes Afghanistan, and you have had successes,” Qureshi said. “I think this should be recognized and I don’t think it has been recognized enough.”
He said that the cutbacks of U.S. training and equipment that can be used against terrorism “can’t help” and that the Trump administration’s harsh words against Islamabad also have been harmful.
“Our influence over the Taliban is diminished,” Qureshi said. “It is in our own enlightened self-interest to do so (get the Taliban to accept a peace treaty), not to please you.”
Qureshi’s characterization of Pakistan’s efforts and influence was reframed by Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command.
“I do acknowledge what they have done in their country. There is more to do,” Votel told Pentagon reporters Thursday.
Votel, who spoke via a link from Central Command headquarters in Tampa, said Pakistan must “make absolutely sure” that the Taliban leaders in Pakistan cannot communicate with its forces in Afghanistan and that they need to “ensure there is no movement back and forth.
“They need to use their influence with the Taliban,” Votel said. “They can do this; they can put pressure on them.”