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Afghan endgame: Pakistan boycotts key peace meeting

by  Ariel Zirulnick, Staff writer Christian Science Monitor
December 1st, 2011

Pakistan announced it would boycott this weekend's Bonn Conference, which aims to chart out a strategy for Afghanistan, in response to a NATO strike.

November 29, 2011

Supporters of Mutahida Qabail Party (MQP) burn the NATO flag while shouting anti-American slogans during a protest rally in Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday. Pakistan says it will boycott this weekend's international conference, which aims to chart out a strategy for Afghanistan, in response to the NATO strike.

Faisal Mahmood/Reuters

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In response to the NATO strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on Nov. 26,  Pakistan says it will boycott an international conference next week. The conference is meant to bring together all the countries who will be critical players in Afghanistan's post-US future. The absence of Pakistan – which shares a long border with Afghanistan and has influence over insurgent groups that operate in the country –  is significant.

The predominant fear is that Pakistan will pursue its own interests over international ones in Afghanistan, which could be detrimental to the US and its allies in the region. According to the Associated Press, "Pakistan isperhaps the most important regional country because of it influence on Afghan Taliban factions on its soil."

On its own, the Nov. 26 NATO strike might not have been enough to send US-Pakistan relations into such a nosedive. But it follows a CIA contractor's murder of two Pakistanis, the unilateral US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May, and US accusations of Pakistani intelligence complicity with militants – just this year. Cooperation between the two countries in the border region had only just started improving, according to the AP.

Pakistani newspaper The News International reports that US Gen. Martin Dempsey said during aLondon forum Monday on US-Pakistan relations, "It certainly does look like it's on about as rocky a road as it has been in my memory. And my memory with Pakistan goes back some 20 years or so." However, he said he did not consider the situation "irretrievable."

The US and NATO have apologized for the raid, which they described as a "tragic, unintended incident," and pledged both US and NATO investigations into why NATO fired on two Pakistani border outposts – which according to Pakistan was unprovoked, Reuters reports. Afghan officials claim that the NATO forces were reacting to gunfire coming from the Pakistani side of the border.


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