Pakistan tells US to sort out ‘mess’ in Afghanistan

Islamabad, March 6 (IANS) The Pakistan military has warned US President Donald Trump’s new Generals that they face a “total mess” in Afghanistan unless the US and Britain halt the advance of the Islamic State and the Taliban in the strife-torn country.

According to a senior Pakistan Army official, the collapse in security since the draw-down of Western troops from Afghanistan meant the West now faced “losing control”, The Telegraph reported on Monday.

If the IS and the Taliban continued to gain strength, it could tempt Russia to stage a Syrian-style intervention, this time on the pretext of protecting its “backyard” in central Asia, he said.

The comments by the Pakistan Army official, who The Telegraph did not identify, will add to growing concern in Washington and London about the reversal of the hard-won gains made by coalition troops during the 16-year-long Afghan campaign.

According to him, high-level discussions had taken place last month with both Resolute Support Mission commander General John Nicholson and US Defense Secretary James Mattis, in which Nicholson admitted that Afghan forces were in a stalemate against the Taliban.

“A stalemate is still a win for the Taliban,” he said. “We have told General Mattis that Afghanistan is slipping out of control, and that if things are not put right, America will have a huge crisis on its hands.

“(The IS) Daish is also developing there, and if they leave Syria and Iraq, the next place for them to gather in is Afghanistan.”

Pakistan has criticised the Kabul government for not doing enough to seal its side of the border, from where, Islamabad says, militants launch attacks on both Pakistani and Afghan soil.

However, Islamabad admits that Kabul is limited by the capabilities of the Afghan National Army.

“There are 350,000 troops in the Afghan Army, but only about 20,000 are capable of combat missions,” the official said.

“They also have about 1,000 Generals, most of whom are appointed because of their tribal affiliations rather than on merit. The problem is that you can’t teach a donkey to gallop.”

He said Russia feared that the West was using the IS as a “plot to destabilise its backyard”, and could use it as an excuse to extend military operations into Afghanistan.

Last month, Russia held a conference for regional powers on Afghanistan, signalling what could be the opening stages of such a strategy.

–IANS

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