Blinken says US will assess Pakistan ties over Afghanistan’s future

WASHINGTON: The United States will be looking at its relationship with Pakistan in the coming weeks, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday, to formulate what role Washington would want it to play in the future of Afghanistan.

In the first public hearing in Congress about Afghanistan since last month’s collapse of the US-backed government in Kabul, Blinken told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that Pakistan has a “multiplicity of interests some that are in conflict with ours.”

“It is one that is involved hedging its bets constantly about the future of Afghanistan, it’s one that’s involved harbouring members of the Taliban […] It is one that’s also involved in different points cooperation with us on counterterrorism,” Blinken said.

Asked by lawmakers if it is time for Washington to reassess its relationship with Pakistan, Blinken said the administration would soon be doing that.

“This is one of the things we’re going to be looking at in the days, and weeks ahead — the role that Pakistan has played over the last 20 years but also 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.

The United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan culminated with a hastily organised airlift that left thousands of US-allied Afghans behind and was punctuated by a suicide bombing outside Kabul’s airport that killed 13 US troops and scores of Afghans.

Blinken also called on Pakistan to deny legitimacy to the Taliban unless they meet international demands.

“What we have to look at is an insistence that every country, to include Pakistan, make good on the expectations that the international community has of what is required of a Taliban-led government if it’s to receive any legitimacy of any kind or any support,” he told the committee.

He said the priorities included ensuring the Taliban let out people who want to leave Afghanistan and respect the rights of women, girls and minorities, as well as adhere to promises that the country not again become “a haven for outward-directed terror.”

“So Pakistan needs to line up with a broad majority of the international community in working toward those ends and in upholding those expectations,” Blinken said.

The United States and Western countries are in a difficult balancing act in the aftermath of the Taliban’s victory — reluctant to recognise the group while accepting the reality that they will have to engage with them to prevent a looming humanitarian crisis.

Pakistan had maintained diplomatic contact with the Taliban dating from the guerrillas’ rise in the 1990s and it was one of only three countries to recognise its 1996-2001 government.

Islamabad also quickly pledged cooperation in the US-led “war on terror” after the September 11 attacks.

But Pakistan has frequently viewed Afghanistan through the prism of its historic rivalry with India, a major partner to the fallen regime.

— With additional input from AFP

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