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Success in Afghanistan impossible without Pakistan cooperation: Gen Dunford

Afghanistan

WASHIGNTON, JUL 27 (DNA) – US General Joseph Dunford, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff has said that cooperation from Pakistan was absolutely essential for the United States to be successful in Afghanistan, but warned against putting a timeline for any exit strategy that would undermine support from Islamabad.

Gen Dunford made the remarks at the eighth annual Aspen Security Forum held in California from July 19-22. Text of his talk was posted on the institute’s website. He was responding to a question about the ongoing review of the Afghan policy.

He said that the policy review was not just about Afghanistan but about South Asia – from New Delhi to Tehran – and Pakistan had to be a critical element of the US strategy in the region.

“And we cannot be successful in Afghanistan — we’ve seen that over the last several years — unless we have a higher degree of cooperation from Pakistan,” the General told the forum on the concluding day.

Pakistan was absolutely an integral part of the strategic review that was ongoing, he added.

Asked about the future of Taliban in any future solution to the Afghan problem, Gen Dunford stated that the political solution in Afghanistan had to be an Afghan-led solution for it to be successful, but how Taliban were to be accommodated politically had to be an Afghan decision to make.

About the increase in ground troops in Afghanistan, he said the US should only provide more capability on the ground if it was in the context of a broader strategy that had a chance of being successful.

From 140,000 in 2013, the number of US troops in Afghanistan currently stands at about 8,700 and President Trump has authorized the Pentagon to decide on the need of sending any additional forces as has been requested by US military chief in that country.

Gen Dunford said over the last two years the Afghan forces had suffered significant casualties and more work needed to increase their ability to integrate, combine arms and in terms of training.

However, he said, any decision on the troops surge in Afghanistan would be made after President decides on the strategic framework within which US support to the Afghan security forces takes place.

Asked about a timeframe for an exit strategy, Gen Dunford said putting any artificial timeline for it would be counter-productive. The ongoing conversation was about what would be the condition under which the US could transition its mission in Afghanistan.

“Here’s what I would tell you. Any place that we have national interests or vital national interests, we’re going to have an enduring diplomatic and enduring economic and enduring military presence,” the General said.

He said what was going to change over time was the form of that diplomatic, economic and military presence; again adding that putting artificial time for an exit was not good.

“If you talk in Afghanistan, it’s not good for the confidence of the Afghan people. And it actually causes hedging behavior in the region as well. It actually undermines our cooperation with Pakistan,” he said.=DNA

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