When Pakistan’s prime minister visited Kabul this month, he spoke grandly to the public of an enduring friendship between neighbours and his country’s commitment to help Afghans in the war with the Taliban.
But in private meetings, Yousaf Raza Gillani and the leaders of Pakistan’s military and intelligence service offered a startling proposal for cooperation: The Afghan government should distance itself from the US and seek new allies, particularly China, according to current and former Afghan officials with knowledge of the meeting.
Gillani read to President Hamid Karzai from a paper outlining Pakistan’s view that the US military strategy had no prospect for success, that its troops antagonised the region and that the Afghan government should avoid any agreement that allows long-term US military bases in Afghanistan, according to the Afghans.
Because of the growing fiscal problems in the United States, Gillani argued, America was a power in decline, one without the ability to support Afghanistan and Pakistan in the future, and Afghans should look “for alternative allies,” a senior Afghan official said. “That was the first time that the whole Pakistani state, military and civilian, spoke to us with one voice. That is important,” the Afghan official said.
Although Pakistan is a US ally, top Pakistani officials have long been deeply disdainful of US policy in the region, and have been hedging their bets in case US efforts in Afghanistan fail. Pakistan’s overture to the Afghan government marks one of the clearest signals to date that Pakistan is moving away from its partnership with the United States.
A spokesman for Gillani denied that the Pakistanis delivered any such message but would not discuss the content of the meeting. “Whatever you’re saying is not true,” Shabir Anwar said.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry released a statement on Wednesday saying that “Pakistan recognises the key role of the United States in promoting stability, peace and harmony in Afghanistan.”
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