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Pakistan FM Qureshi Urges U.S. To 'Remain Engaged' In Rebuilding Afghanistan


Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has urged Washington to help Afghanistan rebuild even if it eventually removes its troops.

Pakistan’s foreign minister said during his visit to Washington that the United States should remain engaged in Afghanistan even if it eventually pulls its troops out of the war-torn country.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who is scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on January 17, cautioned Washington not to return to a policy of neglect of Afghanistan in the manner seen after 1989, when Soviet troops pulled out under pressure from U.S.- and Pakistan-backed Islamic guerrillas.

"Do not repeat the '80s," Qureshi said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"Even if there is a successful agreement, challenges will remain there, so the United States and its friends and coalition partners will have to have a more responsible withdrawal," he said.

"They should remain engaged -- not to fight, but to rebuild," he said.

U.S. forces have been in Afghanistan since their 2001 invasion to drive out the Taliban following the September 11 terror attacks in the United States. The Taliban controlled Afghanistan at the time and harbored Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the attacks.

U.S. President Donald Trump has expressed his desire to remove the estimated 13,000 U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan in America’s longest war.

Over the past year, Islamabad has helped facilitate the talks between U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban in Qatar, where the militants have a political office.

But the talks have repeatedly stalled, with Washington calling on the group to reduce violence, among other things.

Earlier in the day, Qureshi said in a video message that the Taliban has shown "willingness" to reduce violence in Afghanistan, calling it a “step toward” a peace deal between the militant group and the United States.

Pakistan was the main backer of the former Taliban regime and maintains contacts with the extremists.

The Taliban militants have given Khalilzad an offer for a temporary cease-fire in Afghanistan that would last between seven and 10 days, AP reported, citing Taliban negotiators.

"They are pragmatic and not foolish. They are also fatigued," Qureshi said of the Taliban.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, and AP

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