Pakistan's top army General on Monday offered to train recruits to Afghanistan's newly proposed army and the police force, coinciding with a budgetary proposal by U.S. President Barack Obama for providing $1.2 billion next year to equip and train Pakistan's own security forces fighting Taliban militants.
The comments by Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, Pakistan's army chief, however, were also a reflection of growing self confidence within the military, which increasingly recognizes its pivotal role in Mr. Obama's plan to stabilize Afghanistan.
In the past week, U.S. officials, before and after the international conference on Afghanistan which was held in London, spoke of the beginning of a period of rehabilitation of Taliban militants who are prepared to lay down their arms in Afghanistan.
However, diplomats from other Western countries have said such a dramatic turn around after years of conflict between U.S. forces and Taliban militants in Afghanistan will not be possible unless Pakistan backs the process by using its influence over the Taliban.
In the 1990s, Pakistan was the only outside player which recognized the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and also maintained a full-time embassy in Kabul. However, Pakistan quickly turned its back on the Taliban and joined the U.S.-led coalition against terror after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Kiyani, speaking to reporters from foreign news organizations at the Pakistan army's general headquarters in Rawalpindi said training of Afghan army and police "is better for the short term and long term. It is a win-win for ISAF (International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan), the U.S., Afghanistan and Pakistan."
Kiyani's remarks highlighted a two-fold view within the military:
On the one hand, Pakistan's army generals are skeptical of India —Islamabad's main rival — emerging as a stronger player in Afghanistan going into the future. The Pakistani military views its success in assuming part of the responsibility for the training of a new Afghan army as being pivotal in neutralizing the effect of a growing Indian presence in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, Pakistan's military officers also want to establish close links with the top hierarchy of a new Afghan national army to neutralize growing hostility towards the country. Many Afghans remain angry with Pakistan for its support of Taliban rule in the 1990s — a period still remembered for some of the worst violations of human rights in recent memory.
A senior Western diplomat in Islamabad who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity after Kiyani's remarks said the Pakistani army appears to be setting itself for a new role in stabilizing Afghanistan while also seeking a closer relationship with the US.
"They (Pakistani army) are obviously keen to emerge with a stabilizing role in Afghanistan," said the diplomat. "This (role) will guarantee a position for Pakistan going in to the future."