According to the Dawn News the U.S. President Barack Obama is setting up a new office in the State Department to oversee America’s relations with Afghanistan and Pakistan during the current transitional period.
An executive order issued on Friday afternoon said the new, temporary set-up shall be called the Afghanistan and Pakistan Strategic Partnership Office. The presidential order comes as the United States and its Nato allies prepare to pull out most of their combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year.
The new office, which will be a part of the State Department, will support U.S. federal agencies in facilitating a “strategic partnership” between the United States and Afghanistan and Pakistan, promoting “further security and stabilization” in the two countries, and transitioning to a “normalized diplomatic presence” in both countries.
On the withdrawal of all American troops from Afghanistan Pakistan’s new Ambassador to Washington stated that complete withdrawal is not desirable.
“Even the talk of U.S. pullout has started having its impact. Pakistan has started to receive more Afghan refugees than before,” said Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani. “This shows that the people of Afghanistan too have fears.”
The United States plans to withdraw most of its combat troops from Afghanistan by December 2014. Although it intends to leave behind a smaller force to help the Afghan government, Kabul’s continued refusal to sign a required security agreement can jeopardize this plan too.
Mr Jilani said his first priority would be to strengthen trade and economic ties with the world’s economic superpower. “Defense and security ties obviously are equally important but cooperation in the energy sector would be the main task that one has to carry forward,” he said.
Mr Jilani, who has served in India too, urged New Delhi to take advantage of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s genuine interest in improving relations with the neighbor. “They will lose a big opportunity if they do not,” he said.
The Pakistan Prime Minister’s visit to Washington in October, he said, also gave him “a degree of advantage” in his new assignment by “setting the tone for a very positive engagement between the two countries”.
The “positive vibes we got from all sides” during the visit and after “give us a good hope that we will be able to maintain this trajectory in relations,” said Mr Jilani.
The Ambassador agreed with the suggestion that 2014 would be crucial for determining America’s role in South Asia but said that it’s still early to speculate how the situation would shape up.
“In case the bulk of the troops withdraw, the major responsibility would lie on our shoulders. Security responsibilities, previously being shared by others, then exclusively become Pakistan’s responsibility. It is certainly going to be a big challenge,” he said.
The expected withdrawal of NATO forces and the American troops from Afghanistan calls for a more closer coordination between the two countries to maintain peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region. The Taliban are an important element in Afghanistan, therefore Pakistan supports reconciliation between Taliban and the Afghan government. So far these efforts have not yielded any positive results. If fair and free elections are held in Afghanistan in 2014, it will promote stability in the country and the Afghan people will for the first time have their free voice in electing a leader of their choice. The establishment of a new office in the U.S. Department of State to oversee relations between the three countries shows the importance that the United States attaches to these relations.
It also indicates that Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States are the major players in any security related mechanism for the region's future. For Pakistan and Afghanistan the United States is offering its cooperation to revitalize the strategic partnership. Both countries should welcome this opportunity and ensure maximum cooperation first to facilitate withdrawal of the American military troops and then to re-structure the partnership for long-term security and stability of the South Asian region.
Dawn News January 18 & 19, 2014