The U.S. ambassador in Islamabad, Richard Olson, on Wednesday said that the United States will not leave Afghanistan and will not repeat the mistake of late 80s.
“Let me be clear, the United States is not leaving Afghanistan. The terms of engagement might change, but the commitment will not,” the envoy said in a speech at a conference on the situation in Afghanistan post-2014 at the National University of Modern Languages.
The former Soviet troops had withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 after a 10-year invasion of the Muslim nation.
Afghanistan had spilled into a civil war shortly after the U.S. and its western allies turned back at the region, which led to Taliban rule in 1996. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in late 2001 after the attacks in New York and Washington that were blamed on al-Qaeda.
“I must unequivocally dispel what I fear is a widespread, but wildly incorrect analogy: 2014 is not 1989. We recognize the mistakes of the past. The United States will not disengage from the region,” Ambassador Olson said.
He said that as the U.S. mission changes and Afghan forces grow in capability and experience, international troops will continue to train, advise, assist the Afghans, and fight alongside them when needed.
“In that capacity, we will no longer be leading combat operations, but instead shift to a supporting role as Afghans have demonstrated their increasing capability to lead combat operations across the country”.
In order to facilitate a negotiated peace, he called for the United States and Pakistan to work together with purpose, noting, “For the sake of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region, Pakistan’s full support to an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process is needed now.”
“The U.S. role is to help advance such a process, including by supporting an office in Qatar, where negotiations can take place between the Afghan High Peace Council and authorized representatives of the Taliban.”
He referred to recent remarks by President Obama who reiterated this message in the State of the Union address, in which he said: “We will build an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, so that it is never again a source of attacks against America.”
Ambassador Olson noted that, “The international community’s financial and political commitment, and the nearly $20 billion in pledges for security and development assistance that have already been made through 2024, stands out as a defining difference between 2014 and 1989. The United States, and nations across the globe, have unambiguously committed to Afghanistan’s future.”
“As President Obama and President Karzai agreed in Washington, Afghan-led peace and reconciliation is the surest way to end violence and ensure the lasting stability of Afghanistan and the region,” Ambassador Olson recalled.
Ambassador Olson also reiterated the United States commitment to a cooperative and long-term partnership with Pakistan.
“The U.S. relationship with Pakistan is not shaped solely by our commitments and responsibilities in Afghanistan. This partnership is far broader than any one issue, and centered on areas of mutual interest,” he said.