Gilani urges Karzai to dump US, team up with Pakistan, China: Report

Washington, April 27(ANI): Pakistan is lobbying Afghan President Hamid Karzai against building a long-term strategic partnership with the United States, and urging him instead to look to Pakistan and its ally, China, for help in striking a peace deal with the Taliban and rebuilding the economy, according to Afghan officials.

Afghan sources said that the pitch was made at an April 16 meeting in Kabul by Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who bluntly told Karzai that the Americans had failed them both, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Gilani said that Karzai should forget about allowing a long-term US military presence in his country, according to Afghans familiar with the meeting.

Pakistan's bid to cut the US out of Afghanistan's future is the clearest sign so far that as the endgame of the nearly ten-year long war begins, tensions between Washington and Islamabad threaten to scuttle America's prospects of ending the conflict on its own terms, according to the report.

Although a US ally, Pakistan has its own interests in Afghanistan, believing that it needs a pliant government in Kabul to protect its rear flank from India, the report said.

Washington's relations with Pakistan have reached their lowest point in years following a series of missteps on both sides, and Pakistani officials say that they no longer have an incentive to follow the American lead in their own backyard, the report added.

"Pakistan is sole guarantor of its own interest," said a senior Pakistani official, adding: "We're not looking for anyone else to protect us, especially the US. If they're leaving, they're leaving and they should go."

Meanwhile, according to Afghans familiar with Karzai’s thinking, the Afghan President is wavering on Pakistan's overtures, with pro- and anti-American factions at the presidential palace trying to sway him to their sides.

Afghans in the pro-US camp who shared details of the meeting with the newspaper, said that they did so to prompt the US to move faster toward securing the strategic partnership agreement, which is intended to spell out the relationship between the two countries after 2014.

"The longer they wait…the more time Pakistan has to secure its interests," said one of the pro-U.S. Afghan officials.

However, Waheed Omar, a spokesman for Karzai, said: "Pakistan would not make such demands. But even if they did, the Afghan government would never accept it."

Some US officials said that they had heard details of the Kabul meeting, and presumed that they were informed about Gilani's entreaties in part, as one official put it, to "raise Afghanistan's asking price" in the partnership talks, which could include high levels of US aid after 2014.

However, in a reflection of US concerns about Pakistan's overtures, General David Petraeus, Commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, has met Karzai three times since April 16, in part to reassure the Afghan president that he has America's support, and to nudge forward progress on the partnership deal, said Afghan and US officials.
Copyright Asian News International/