Pakistan urges troops withdrawal be done ‘responsibly’

Pakistan government said on Sunday that a foreign troop withdrawal from Afghanistan should be done in a responsible way in order to avoid a “vacuum”.

Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Pakistan believes “that the withdrawal of troops should be orderly and responsible so as not to create a vacuum”.

This was in response to the Taliban’s statement Friday warning of “death and destruction” if US troops fail to leave by the May 1 deadline as set out in the US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha in February last year.

“Pakistan has always upheld that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.

“We have supported an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive dialogue among the Afghan parties to resolve their differences,” Chaudhri said.

“Pakistan believes that the Doha process provides an historic opportunity to achieve such a lasting political solution.”

This comes after the Taliban on Friday reacted strongly against recent remarks by US President Joe Biden on extending troop presence and after Germany announced it was extending its military footprint in the country.

In its statement, the Taliban warned: “In such a case, the Islamic Emirate [Taliban] – as a representative of the believing, valiant and Mujahid Afghan nations – will be compelled to defend its religion and homeland and continue its ‘Jihad’ and armed struggle against foreign forces to liberate its country. All responsibility for the prolongation of war, death and destruction will be on the shoulders of those who committed this violation.”

While the US has not yet made a decision on whether to withdraw its forces by May 1, and nor has NATO indicated its position, Germany announced it has agreed to extend its Afghanistan mission into 2022.

German lawmakers approved the new mandate late Thursday which allows the German military to keep up to 1,300 troops in Afghanistan as part of a NATO mission until Jan 31, 2022.

The German government has warned that a premature withdrawal of NATO troops could jeopardize peace talks, and that NATO troops would need to prepare for Taliban violence if they stay beyond the end of April.

On Thursday, the U.S. President Joe Biden said that it would be “hard” to withdraw the last U.S. troops from Afghanistan by a May 1 deadline, but he added that he did not think they still would be there next year.

During the news conference Biden said it would be hard to meet the May 1 deadline to withdraw the last 3,500 U.S. troops “just in terms of tactical reasons.”

He apparently was referring to the enormous logistical challenges of pulling out the roughly 10,000 American and NATO troops and their equipment within the next six weeks.

Biden was asked if it was possible that there still would be U.S troops in Afghanistan next year. “I can’t picture that being the case,” he responded.

The Taliban have also indicated they could resume attacks on foreign troops if Biden does not meet the May 1 deadline.