The seventeenth meeting of the National Security Committee was chaired by Prime Minister Mr. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in Islamabad to review the emerging strategic situation in the region and beyond. Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Prof Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Interior, Mr. Khurram Dastgir, Minister for Defence, General Zubair Mehmood Hayat, Chairman JCSC, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of the Army Staff, Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi, Chief of the Naval Staff, Air Chief Marshall SohailAman, Chief of the Air Staff, Mr. Miftah Ismail, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs, Lt. General Nasser Khan Janjua (Retd), National Security Advisor, Mr. Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, and senior civil and military officials attended the meeting.
The Committee observed that the close interaction with the US leadership following the initial pronouncement of President Trump’s policy on South Asia had been useful in creating a better understandingof each other’s perspectiveson the best way forward to achievedurable peace and stability in Afghanistan. The visits of Secretary Tillerson and Secretary Mattis were also seen by the Committee as robust and forward-looking. The Committee observed that given this positive direction of progression, recent statements and articulation by the American leadership were completely incomprehensible as they contradicted facts manifestly, struck with great insensitivityat the trust between two nations built over generations, and negated thedecades of sacrifices made by the Pakistani nation – a nation that has contributed sosignificantly to regional and global security and peace.
The participants noted that over the past several years, Pakistan’s counter terrorism campaign has served as a bulwark against possible expansion of scores of terrorist organizations currently present in Afghanistan- a fact acknowledged by US authorities at the highest levels. Most of these terrorists have repeatedly launched cross border attacks against innocent Pakistanis with impunity by exploiting presence of millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, a porous Pak-Afghan border and large tracts of ungoverned spaces inside Afghanistan.
The Committee observed that Pakistan has fought the war against terrorism primarily out of its own resources and at a great cost to its economy, and that even more importantly the huge sacrifices made by Pakistan, including the loss of tens of thousands of lives of Pakistani civilians and security personnel, and the pain of their families, could not be trivialised so heartlessly by pushing all of it behind a monetary value – and that too an imagined one.
The Committee further observed that even today Pakistan was firmly supporting the US-led international effort in Afghanistan; that it was continuously facilitating this through vital lines of communications for smooth counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan by the international coalition; that as a result of Pakistan’s counter-terrorism cooperation, Al-Qaeda had been decimated from the region; and that it was mostly because of this support that Pakistan was suffering a brutal backlash, including the killing of hundred of its schoolchildren by terrorists based in Afghanistan.
The Committee was of the firm view that the real challenges in Afghanistan were political infighting, massive corruption, phenomenal growth of drug production and expansion of ungoverned spaces inside Afghanistan full of sanctuaries for multiple international terrorist organisations, posing a serious and direct threat to Afghanistan, its neighbours and the entire region. The Committee observed that Pakistan cannot be held responsible for the collective failure in Afghanistan and that blaming allies certainly does not serve the shared objective of achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan and the region.
The Committee reaffirmed that Pakistanis are a people who hold dear their national pride, who are capable of defending their country, and who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to counter terrorism and to work for regional peace and stability.