Islamabad: The process of withdrawing US combat troops from Afghanistan will begin in July next year and will be completed in four years in a phased manner, America's Special Envoy for Af-Pak region Richard Holbrooke said today.
The process of troop withdrawal is not an exit strategy but a transition strategy, Holbrooke told reporters at a roundtable discussion here.The US wants to return full sovereignty to the people and government of Afghanistan, he said.
A summit of NATO countries to be held next week will be attended by US President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai will be invited to put forth his plans and policies, Holbrooke said.The Taliban's demand for Karzai's removal is unacceptable, he said.
"The US and other countries, including Pakistan, support the government of President Karzai and the Taliban will have to live with this reality," he added.Holbrooke told a questioner that Pakistan and Afghanistan will have to cooperate to resolve the issue of terrorism.
"If Pakistan wishes to play a role and support the process of reconciliation in Afghanistan, it would be welcomed," he remarked.
Replying to another question, Holbrooke said the launching of a military operation in North Waziristan tribal region would be a tactical decision to be made by the Pakistan Army and the government.At the moment, the Pakistan Army feels that it does not have the resources for this purpose, he said.
Asked about the sources of funding for terrorists and militants, Holbrooke said the funds primarily come from outside Pakistan and through the extortion of NATO supply convoys."This is a serious issue and we are working on it," he said.
Asked whether Obama's endorsement of India's bid for permanent membership of the UN Security Council would hamper efforts to reduce tension between Pakistan and India, he said the US favours greater understanding between the two countries.
He said the US leadership has repeatedly said that the two countries should work out their differences.The ability of the US to talk freely and candidly with Pakistan and India would be helpful in reducing tension, he contended.
Responding to a question, Holbrooke said the US made a mistake by abandoning Pakistan and Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan but it would not repeat this mistake.PTI