Dialogue for peace

March 19, 2023

The recent ‘mid-level’ US-Pakistan counter-terrorism dialogue discussed policy suggestions to establish sustainable peace in and around Afghanistan

Dialogue for peace


he United States and Pakistan held a two-day counter-terrorism dialogue on the 6th and 7th of March in Islamabad, providing an opportunity to discuss the counterterrorism landscape after the US withdrawal and establish sustainable peace in Afghanistan.

According to a press release issued by the government, the two-day policy-focused meeting was chaired by the Department of State Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism Christopher Landberg and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Additional Secretary for the UN and Economic Diplomacy Syed Haider Shah. “The dialogue provided an opportunity to discuss the counterterrorism landscape in Pakistan and the broader region, with a focus on areas where the United States and Pakistan can collaborate better to counter regional and global threats, improve cooperation, prevent and counter violent extremism and combat terrorism financing. Both governments resolved to increase dialogue on these topics and continue discussing paths to restart or introduce counterterrorism programs to assist Pakistan’s efforts to better counter all forms of violent extremism,” the statement said.

Pakistan informed the American delegation about the impact of recent events in Afghanistan on their country. Due to the withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan and following the start of Russia-Ukraine war, international attention has shifted away from the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Pakistan has continued to support the Afghan people on account of its long border with Afghanistan and historical ties. Currently, Pakistan is sheltering thousands of Afghan families carrying no legal documents that crossed the border following the Taliban takeover of Kabul. Meanwhile, there has been no support from the international community and the economic situation in Pakistan has deteriorated. The arrival of hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees and the presence of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan bases in Afghanistan are also causing disturbances in Pakistan.

Pakistan is in dire need of global support to deal with the severe economic challenges. The West must recognise that after two decades of war on terror, Pakistan urgently needs economic assistance to restore its economy, handle the Afghan refugees, improve the healthcare and education provision and make strides in science and technology, skills development and energy sectors. Pakistan has reached a critical point in its engagement in the global war on terror. It is incumbent upon the international community to prevent it from falling victim to these problems.

Pakistan is sheltering thousands of Afghan families carrying no legal documents that crossed the border following the Taliban takeover of Kabul.

Given an unstable Afghanistan next door once again providing a haven for militants, there is a risk that terrorists will eventually strike in America and Europe as well. Despite military actions against the ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the global terror threat has persisted. Some of the militants have made Afghanistan their new home. There have been reports that some Western-trained former Afghan soldiers are fighting in Ukraine.

The hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan has been a mistake on the part of the United States.

One reason for Western forces to reestablish a foothold in Afghanistan may be a realisation that the problems they left behind in the war-torn country in the 1980s have followed them into the 21st Century.

Like previous security dialogues, the long-standing issue of Pakistan’s F-16 aircraft deal was discussed. Pakistan also informed US authorities about its issues with the Indian government. Such talks present an excellent opportunity for the two sides to renew their relationship. It is crucial that America understands Pakistan’s position in the current situation, including its economic problems and the impact of climate change. Pakistan seeks justice for damages caused by global climate violations.

All stakeholders should pay close attention to areas affected by militant activity, particularly the merged districts of the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas). Despite the operations undertaken by the army, there have been instances of militant activity. Strengthening the police and judicial systems here should be a top priority for the region. Additionally, engaging and employing the youth can reduce militancy. Expanding commercial hubs and business activities along the Pak-Afghan border crossings can bring financial benefits to Pakistan, especially if relations with India improve. India has tried to access Central Asia through Iran but a land route through Pakistan can be a more attractive option. It is important for Pakistan and the US to continue their dialogue as a long-term project in order to resolve misunderstandings on a regular basis and maintain a lasting partnership.

The writer is a Peshawar-based journalist, researcher and trainer

Dialogue for peace