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Pakistan offers 'guarded' response on Afghan troop pullout plans

June 24, 2011 - Islamabad

Pakistan has offered a guarded response and stopped short of giving any explicit statement on United States plans for Afghanistan's future following the US President Barack Obama's announcement of a phased withdrawal of 33,000 troops by September 2012.

The Pakistan Foreign Office said in a terse statement that Pakistan has an "ongoing engagement on issues of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and counter-terrorism".

"We will have the opportunity to discuss these issues in greater detail when the core group of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US will meet in Kabul early next week," the Foreign Office statement added.

However, a foreign ministry official admitted that Islamabad has certain reservations about the Washington's plans for the Afghan endgame.

"We are cautious because we want to know more about President Obama's plans," the Express Tribune quoted the official, as speaking on the conditions of anonymity.

He said the Obama's deflection of blame for the insurgency in neighbouring Afghanistan on Pakistan did not reflect the ground facts. Pakistan is also sore about the US' attempts to sideline it in its peace overtures with the Afghan Taliban, he said.

At a joint news conference with visiting British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar also sounded sceptical about the role of the US in the Afghan reconciliation process.

US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen had also acknowledged that Obama's plans to withdraw nearly a third the US troops from Afghanistan was a riskier plan than he had initially wanted.


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