US not pulling out of region, says Blake
WASHINGTON (PAN): Assuaging concerns among countries in South and Central Asia about the impact of a US troop drawdown on regional security, a top Obama administration official on Friday said the Americans were not pulling out of the region.
“I'm here to tell you these concerns are misplaced for a number of important reasons,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake said in his remarks at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Policy Conference on Islam in Eurasia.
“First, the United States is not pulling out of the region. On the contrary, we are committed to an enduring partnership with Afghanistan and its people in the years ahead, and of course with the governments and the people of Central Asia,” he said.
President Obama had said several times as Afghans stood up, they would not be left alone, he added, explaining one important part of that was continuing to engage with Afghanistan's neighbours. America’s goal remained to work toward a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan within a secure and integrated region, he continued.
Championing the New Silk Road vision of greater regional economic cooperation, Blake said increased connectivity and integration as well as trade between Central Asia and Afghanistan, South Asia and Europe would help forge physical, cultural and commercial links that could be the building blocks for a more stable, secure and prosperous future of the region.
“This is especially true for Afghanistan, where an important economic transition is underway and where increased economic integration with the wider region can also support efforts to improve security and bring a political end to the war in Afghanistan,” the official argued.
For example, he said, the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Pipeline would connect the vast gas reserves of Turkmenistan with the hungry energy markets of South Asia while providing much-needed transit revenue to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Blake said as India and Pakistan improved their trade relationship, the next step would be to provide transit trade to Afghanistan through Pakistan.
“It's more a policy question, and particularly getting the Afghanistan-Pakistan transit trade agreement first implemented, and then, even more importantly, eventually convincing Pakistan that it's in their own interest to allow transit trade from India, from Bangladesh and the rest of the subcontinent through Pakistan to Afghanistan and beyond..."
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