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Pakistan cautions against civil war in post-Nato Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday welcomed Nato plans for a phased withdrawal from Afghanistan beginning next year, but warned against any move that could plunge its neighbouring country back into civil war.

At a summit in Lisbon last week, the 48 countries with troops in Afghanistan agreed to begin transferring parts of the battlefield to local police and military, and move Western troops into a supporting role by the end of 2014.

“We will welcome the withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan as and when it happens,” Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told reporters in Islamabad.

“But obviously we would not like Afghanistan to be left on its own,” he said.

“We would like this process to go ahead in tandem with a stabilisation in Afghanistan because we would not like the situation to once again plunge into anarchy or into civil war in Afghanistan.” Pakistan expressed concern about whether Nato would be able to train Afghan forces sufficiently to take responsibility for national security.

“We hope that by 2014 the coalition forces would be able or to have developed the Afghan national army and other security forces in Afghanistan, enabling them to take full charge of the country.

“So that is the only worry or concern we have,” he said.

Afghanistan slipped into chaos after Moscow withdrew Soviet troops 10 years after their 1979 invasion, sparking years of bloody civil war that ended when the Taliban seized power in 1996.

Pakistan, whom US and Afghan officials accuse of harbouring Taliban insurgent leaders, has repeatedly offered to help with Afghan peace efforts.

“We do not expect the coalition forces to stay in Afghanistan forever and Pakistan will continue supporting the process of bringing about stability in Afghanistan in whatever way the Afghanistan government wants us to do.” The United States has warned that “hard fighting remains ahead” and has not ruled out combat operations continuing beyond 2014.

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