Afghanistan instability weighing on Pakistan

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WASHINGTON — Pakistan’s national security adviser warned U.S. officials on Monday that his country “will have to face the brunt of any instability that may engulf Afghanistan” as the 12-year war there winds down at the end of the year.

At the start of top-level meetings at the State Department, Pakistani foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz did not specifically mention U.S. efforts to potentially keep as many as 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after the combat mission ends in December.

The Obama administration hasn’t decided how large a military force — if any at all — it might want to remain but U.S. officials have been frustrated by Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s refusal to sign a security agreement permitting it.

Across the border, Pakistan fears that an abrupt U.S. troop departure from Afghanistan will bolster militant traffic and instability between the two nations.

“In pursuing this goal of the responsible end to the long war in Afghanistan, we have to ensure that Afghanistan successfully transitions into a period of stability, and that past mistakes are not repeated,” Aziz told a crowd of diplomats, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

He added: “Although the war in Afghanistan may be winding down, just as in the past, Pakistan will have to face the brunt of any instability that may engulf Afghanistan after 2014. The people of Pakistan have continued to sacrifice in this war against extremist elements, and despite this heavy toll on our people, Pakistan has supported the international community — because a stable and peaceful Afghanistan is in the interest of the region and Pakistan.”

Aziz said Pakistan also supports an Afghan-led peace process with the Taliban.

The meeting marked rejuvenated efforts between Washington and Islamabad to foster better diplomacy after setbacks following the May 2011 raid by U.S. special forces that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in northeast Pakistan.

Both Aziz and Kerry highlighted efforts to improve energy, education and economic systems in Pakistan.

Kerry avoided discussion of U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan. But he called Pakistan “a vital partner in supporting a secure Afghanistan.”

“We know how closely Pakistan’s own security is linked to Afghanistan’s success,” Kerry said. “That’s why addressing the threats posed to both Pakistan and Afghanistan by cross-border militancy is a key aspect of our conversations.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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