London: The continuing existence of sanctuaries in Pakistan for Afghan insurgents makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the International Security Assistance Force`s counter-insurgency campaign to succeed, British Foreign Secretary William Hague has said.
Responding to the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee report on the UK’s foreign policy approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Hague expressed concern over Britain’s “little influence” over Pakistan, which has the capacity to substantially affect long-term peace prospects in Afghanistan.
“We conclude that the continuing existence of Pakistani safe havens for Afghan insurgents makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for ISAF`s counter-insurgency campaign to succeed,” Hague said in his response to the report.
“It is of considerable concern that the UK is in a situation where, along with its key ally the US, it is reliant upon, but appears to have little influence over, Pakistan, considering the capacity of that country substantially to affect the longer-term prospects for peace in Afghanistan,” he added.
Hague also pointed out that the ability of insurgents in Pakistan to carry out attacks against Western interests is a ‘major concern.’
“Pakistan has a positive role to play in supporting an Afghan-led political settlement. Continued instability in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border areas is harmful to both countries and threatens wider developments,” he stated.
He also noted that direct foreign action in Pakistan without the express consent of the Pakistan government could significantly undermine the country’s authority against extremism and the war on terror.
“We conclude that drone attacks are already a high risk strategy and we further conclude that the use of ground attacks, without the express consent of the Pakistani government could significantly undermine the Pakistani government`s authority, provide militants with an excuse for targeting Western interests, and have the unintended consequence of significantly escalating tensions between Pakistan and the West,” he said.
“We strongly urge the Government to do all that it can to ensure that future US policy on Pakistan does not further undermine the stability of the Pakistani state,” he added.
Hague said the UK remains committed to a broad, long-term and strategic relationship with Pakistan that delivers a real exploration of and understanding of their mutual interests, including progress in Afghanistan.
“This commitment will be pursued through our enhanced Strategic Dialogue which the Prime Minister [David Cameron] launched with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani during his visit to Pakistan in April 2011,” he added.