Peace before troops withdrawal: Pakistan PM’s security advisor

Special advisor on national security to Pakistan’s prime minister, Moeed Yusuf said Wednesday there needs to be peace and security in Afghanistan before foreign troops withdraw from the country.

Yusuf said Pakistan was facilitating the Afghan peace process and was optimistic about success around intra-Afghan negotiations, state radio, Radio Pakistan reported.

According to Yusuf, peace and security in Afghanistan is imperative for the entire region.

Voicing serious concerns about security, he said Afghan soil should not be used for any provocative activities against the neighboring country.

He also said the repatriation of millions of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan was a serious issue and that Pakistan hoped they would return to their home country as soon as possible.

Yusuf’s interview coincided with the High Council for National Reconciliation Chairman, Abdullah Abdullah’s visit to Islamabad where the peace process has come under scrutiny.

Having met with high-ranking officials this week, including Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, Abdullah has “broken the ice” by visiting Islamabad, thereby ushering in a new era of bilateral relations between the two countries.

Pakistan, which helped the United States to get the Taliban to the talks tables with the Afghan negotiating team, has reaffirmed its support to the peace process this week.

However, the talks, underway in Doha, Qatar, have stalled, reportedly over two issues – religious jurisprudence and the US-Taliban deal signed in February, which the Afghan government was not party to.

The Taliban do not recognize the Kabul administration as the legitimate government, claiming it is a puppet government for the United States.

Under the US-Taliban deal, which was conditions-based, Washington will withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by April next year. Already a drawdown has started, with troop numbers down from 13,000 in February to 8,600.

A further reduction of troops to 4,500 is expected by November.