Sweden and Pakistan Tuesday called on Afghanistan to take urgent action to prevent what they said was a likely deterioration of the security situation following the election earlier this month of Ashraf Ghani, who has promised to seek better ties with the Pakistanis and to improve the economy.
The presidents of the two countries, who met Tuesday in Stockholm, raised the prospect of the Taliban making gains in the country that would raise concerns about whether the Afghan government will ever be able to assert authority over the entire country.
The Islamic militants are believed to be holding off an offensive in southern Helmand province, where three U.S. service members were killed last week in a single artillery attack. The assault has heightened the instability in a province that is the home of the Taliban.
A Taliban attack at two police stations in Panjshir province last year drew intense international criticism over civilian casualties. Ghani has announced the withdrawal of Afghan special forces in the area.
The foreign ministers of Sweden and Pakistan pressed the plight of Pakistanis at home and in Afghanistan, blaming both governments for allowing the situation to deteriorate.
“In Pakistan, instability in the north of the country has serious and unpredictable implications for the whole country,” said the Swedish foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom. “On both sides of the border, the lack of stability and the destabilizing effects of the Taliban are at the forefront.”
Sweden and Pakistan said in a joint statement Tuesday that the international community should continue to provide financial and technical assistance to Afghanistan until there is a stable country there. Both countries called for new funding for the Afghan people, including a focus on education and road construction.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with Ghani during the recent climate conference in Paris. He told reporters Tuesday that ties between the two countries have improved since the Durand Line demarcation of the Afghan-Pakistani border was raised during their visit. The Durand Line effectively divides Afghanistan and is in dispute between Kabul and Islamabad.
Sharif said both countries need to work together to stabilize Afghanistan. “To some extent, we have the beginning of a win-win situation,” he said.