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    Rehman calls for reality check in Afghanistan

    WASHINGTON (PAN): With the United States transferring the security responsibility to Afghan forces and withdrawing 34,000 of its troops, Pakistan’s top diplomat in the US has called for a reality check in Afghanistan.     

    “Let’s do a reality check on the situation in Afghanistan. Don’t go crashing out in an exit that runs the risk of sinking Afghanistan into instability and economic problems,” Pakistan Ambassador Sherry Rehman said.

    In her address to the prestigious Harvard University on Tuesday, she said: “More than a military victory, what the US must now try to ensure is to leave an economic infrastructure behind that allows the Afghans to build on after US departure. After fighting the war, the US must win the peace.”

    Pakistan would work with the US to achieve the goals, the ambassador cautioned the Obama administration on Pakistan’s reach and capabilities in Afghanistan.

    “Know the limits of our reach and capacity in Afghanistan. Both sides should understand this. Do not expect us to deliver stability in an arena where 40 countries and billions of dollars could not. We are not the coalition of the unwilling,” she explained.

    “Know that we spend 5 billion dollars a year on defence, while the US spends $2 billion a week in Afghanistan. Pakistan has lost 78 billion dollars to the war on terror. The glass must be seen as half-full, not half-empty. Demonising a partner doesn't help,” she remarked. 

    Arguing that there needs to be a robust anti-narcotics element to US/ISAF activities in Afghanistan, Rehman said unfortunately, a great deal of time has already been lost. “This seemingly ancillary issue can threaten many of the gains made over the past decade,” she said.

    According to a United Nations report published last November, the acreage devoted to poppy cultivation in Afghanistan increased by 18 percent from 2011 to 2012.

    “This should be cause for concern to all of us. An immediate result of such an increase is that the Afghan insurgents will have more funds available to continue their opposition to the US and the government in Kabul. A longer-term casualty will be Afghanistan’s post-2014 stability,” she warned.

    Rehman called Afghanistan Pakistan’s neighbour, not its sphere of influence. “We do not wish to impose a government in Afghanistan or work with only select partners. Rather, we will do our best to work with whichever government the Afghans choose for themselves, and convince it of our respect and friendship...”

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