Karzai moves to allay US’ concerns over recent Af-Pak agreements

May 1st, 2011 - 11:10 am ICT by ANI  

Islamabad, May 1(ANI): Afghan President Hamid Karzai has sent a known pro-US official to Islamabad for follow-up talks with the top leadership to allay Washington’s apprehensions about the recently concluded Pak-Afghan agreements in Kabul, according to sources.

Dr Ashraf Ghani Ahmedzai, the chief coordinator of the Afghan transition process, is in Islamabad, discussing the implementation of the agreements between the two countries during Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani’s recent visit to Kabul.

Dr Ghani, a renowned economist who served as Finance Minister in the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan until December 2004, had comprehensive talks with Foreign Ministry officials on Thursday and Friday, The Express Tribune quoted the source, as saying.

Dr Ghani was also expected to meet President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani on Friday, the source said, adding that he will continue to engage with Islamabad on sensitive issues, including the US’ announced troop withdrawal plan that begins July 2011.

President Karzai has faced serious criticism by his political opponents, including 2009 presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah, for the agreement he reached with Gilani in April.

The criticism was compounded following a The Wall Street Journal report that Gilani “bluntly told the Afghan President that the Americans had failed them both,” and that Karzai “should forget about allowing a long-term US military presence in his country.”

The US is seeking a long-term accord with Afghanistan, which would allow for US troop presence in the country after 2014, the deadline set by Washington for complete transition to Afghan security forces.

Both Kabul and Islamabad have officially denied the Wall Street Journal report.

“What really disturbed Washington was the new Pak-Afghan resolve to settle their issues bilaterally, without the mediation of US,” said a Pakistan Foreign Ministry official, adding, “Washington considered this agreement as an attempt on the part of Pakistan to sideline the US on the Afghan issue.”

Meanwhile, Karzai, who initially opposed the idea of a long-term accord with the US, has repeatedly said that he would take up the US demand to the Afghan parliament for a final decision.

Islamabad is not the only one opposed to a long-term strategic partnership agreement between Kabul and Washington. Other regional heavyweights- Tehran, Beijing and Moscow- have also opposed the prospect of a long-term American presence in the region.

“It’s true that many other countries - including China, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia - are also discussing the endgame in Afghanistan with the Pakistani government, but Pakistan does not believe that the crucial role played by the United States can be replaced by another power,” the Foreign Policy quoted a Pakistani official, as saying.

“As long as the Americans play straight with Pakistan and take into account Pakistani concerns, Pakistan would rather work with the US,” the official added.

Fundamental differences between Pakistan and US, however, will ensure that the Afghan transition process is not entirely a smooth one.

“Some level of discord is to be expected as Pakistan looks out for its own interests in a post-war Afghanistan,” the Pakistani official said. (ANI)

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