September 15, 2021 4:10:03 am
Pakistan has a “multiplicity of interests” in Afghanistan, including “some that are in conflict with ours”, United States Secretary of State Antony J Blinken told Congress on Monday.
The US, Blinken said, will be looking at its relationship with Pakistan in the coming weeks to decide what role Washington would want it to play in the future of Afghanistan.
His statement is significant because Pakistan has tremendous influence on the ground in Afghanistan, with the ISI-backed Haqqani Network calling the shots in the Taliban cabinet.
“It (Pakistan) is one that is involved (in) hedging its bets constantly about the future of Afghanistan, it’s one that’s involved (in) harbouring members of the Taliban…,” Blinken told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.
“It is one that’s also involved in different points (of) cooperation with us on counterterrorism,” Blinken added.
Congressman Joaquin Castro, Democrat from Texas and Chair of the Subcommittee on International Development, International Organisations and Global Corporate Social Impact, asked Blinken whether, given Pakistan’s longtime support for the Taliban and the harbouring of the group’s leaders over the years, it was time for the US to reassess its relationship with Islamabad, and its status as a Major non-NATO ally (MNNA).
Blinken replied that this was something that the US would consider.
“For the reasons you cited as well as others, this is one of the things we will be looking at in the day and weeks ahead, the role that Pakistan has played over the last 20 years and the role we would want to see it play in the coming years and what it will take for it to do that,” he said.
Pointer to way forward
The Biden administration is facing anger on Capitol Hill over the manner of the exit from Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s ‘duplicitous’ role. Blinken’s statement is significant since the ISI has huge leverage over the Taliban government.
Blinken faced tough questions from lawmakers who scrutinised the Biden administration’s response to the situation in Afghanistan, including America’s chaotic exit from the country as Kabul fell to the Taliban and President Ashraf Ghani fled.
Congressman Bill Keating, Democrat from Massachusetts who is Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment, and Member of the House Armed Services Committee, described Pakistan’s role as “duplicitous”.
“They (Pakistan) created, named, and helped the Taliban regroup in 2010 in Pakistan, and the ISI has strong ties with the Haqqani Network which is responsible for the death of US soldiers,” Keating said. He added that Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan had celebrated the Taliban takeover of Kabul, and described it as “breaking the shackles of slavery”.
“Congress has been told that relations with Pakistan are complicated; I say it is duplicitous,” Keating said. The US must reassess its relations with Pakistan, he said.
India has been reaching out to US lawmakers over the past few weeks. India’s Ambassador in Washington DC, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, has been discussing issues related to Afghanistan with them.
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