Afghanistan’s national security adviser wants greater regional antiterrorism cooperation to prevent his country from descending into the sort of abyss into which Syria and Iraq have fallen.
In an interview with Radio Free Afghanistan, Hanif Atmar says Kabul is seeking antiterrorism cooperation among world powers, neighbors, and regional states to keep the security situation in his country from becoming a disaster.
“In the fight against terrorism and drugs, we all share common interests,” he said, referring to Russia, China, the United States, NATO, and Afghanistan’s neighbors.
“This is why we need to cooperate and work together,” he said. “The only people who benefit from a lack of cooperation among us are enemies of people and peace in our region.”
For nearly four decades, the various cycles of war in Afghanistan have been sponsored and fueled by competing global powers, rival ideologies, and neighboring countries, some of whom have sought to use the war in Afghanistan to further their own security interests.
Atmar says Kabul and Islamabad recently agreed to cooperate on two major principles.
“We agreed to engage in antiterrorism cooperation and to respect each other’s sovereignty,” he said. “We agreed that the two countries will not shelter each other’s enemies and will not let anyone use their territory against the other.”
The Afghan national security adviser says that two sides are now working to turn this agreement into action -- something he acknowledges is a challenge and has so far evaded the two neighbors.
“Through international and bilateral pressure and domestic security arrangements, we want them to cooperate with us,” he said. “The cooperation we want is that they [Islamabad] should expel those Taliban who are involved in killings and atrocities on our soil.”
Afghan officials and leaders have accused Pakistan for decades of bankrolling the Taliban. They maintain that while Islamabad acts decisively against groups involved in attacks on Pakistan’s military, it shelters or turns a blind eye to those responsible for violence inside Afghanistan.
“We are telling them that Daesh (eds: local name for the Islamic State militants) Al-Qaeda, and the Taliban are the same,” he said.
Senior Pakistani officials reject such criticism and instead accuse Kabul of sheltering remnants of the Pakistani Taliban on its soil.
Atmar says Kabul is trying to convince its neighbors that investing in peace and stability in Afghanistan contributes to their prosperity and security.
“If they cooperate in restoring peace to Afghanistan, they will also benefit from rapid economic progress,” he said.
Atmar added that some of the leaders in the region seem to have grasped this reality. He points to Uzbekistan’s $500 million investment in a regional railway connecting Afghanistan with Central Asia as an example of such cooperation.
“We are trying to help Pakistan accept this reality because China, Central Asia, and Russia understand this,” he noted.
He says Kabul has not given up on showing Pakistani officials the benefits the country could reap from peace in Afghanistan.
“Let’s work on improving the economic prospects for the two and the region, and let’s avoid the guaranteed destruction resulting from policies supporting terrorism,” he said.