Dampening signals from Washington

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PAKISTAN on Thursday came out strongly against comments made by US lawmakers and Secretary of State Antony Blinken during the recent Congressional hearings on Afghanistan pointing out that such remarks were not in line with the close cooperation between Pakistan and the US.

Testifying before Congress on the Taliban victory in Afghanistan, Blinken told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that his administration would soon be reassessing its relationship with Pakistan as it has a “multiplicity of interests, some that are in conflict with ours”.

The dampening signals emanating from Washington once again confirm that the United States was least interested in maintaining relations with Pakistan as an equal partner and on the basis of mutuality of interests.

It went into such modes for a number of times in the checkered history of the bilateral ties but despite all this Pakistan always tried to have normal ties with the United States even at the cost of her core interests.

The latest posturing comes in the wake of a humiliating retreat from Afghanistan for which Pakistan cannot and should not be blamed as it was an outcome of the fundamentally flawed Afghan policy and wrong reading of the ground situation and realities by the United States.

Twenty years back, Washington used its full military might but could not cause the fall of the Taliban Government but things changed when Pakistan Government extended its cooperation despite numerous questions agitating the minds of the people of Pakistan vis-à-vis legitimacy and justification for imposition of a war on Afghan people.

There was never a military solution to the Afghan issue and Pakistan has all along been trying to bring this fact home to the US policy-makers during interaction at different levels.

Foreign Office spokesperson has rightly expressed surprise over the latest remarks of Blinken as Pakistan’s positive role in the Afghan peace process, recent facilitation of the multinational evacuation effort from Afghanistan and continued support for an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan have been duly acknowledged, including most recently by the US State Department spokesperson in his briefing of September 15, 2021.

The United States has not done any favour to anyone by withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan as this can best be described as correction of a highly defective policy and Pakistan cooperated fully in ensuring this face saving for the world’s only superpower.

The United States bears the blame for the current situation in Afghanistan and the problems confronting its people because of what it did during the last two decades but instead of facilitating the process for the formation of a broad-based government and resolving economic problems of the Afghan people, it has chosen to run away from its responsibility.

As against this, Pakistan, in close cooperation with some regional countries, is struggling hard to encourage the Taliban to deliver on their commitments about establishment of an inclusive government and providing humanitarian assistance to mitigate sufferings of the Afghan people.

It is wrong on the part of the United States to accuse Pakistan of ‘duplicity’ when Islamabad minced no words in conveying to the US leaders that dialogue and not use of force offers a solution to the Afghan crisis.

Blinken should consult the country’s most relevant official – Zalmay Khalilzad, who brokered a peace deal with the Taliban, on what really happened in Afghanistan in recent weeks.

In an interview, Khalilzad categorically stated that President Ashraf Ghani’s abrupt exit scuttled a deal in which the Taliban would hold off entering Kabul and negotiate a political transition.

There was an understanding with the Taliban not to enter Kabul and they were abiding by their commitment but Ghani’s sudden decision to flee from the country forced the Taliban to enter the capital to fill the vacuum.

The loud thinking of Blinken to review relations with Pakistan is in line with the known approach of the United States towards its otherwise ‘strategic ally’ (Pakistan) that is based on pressure tactics, arms twisting, ‘do more’ and discriminatory sanctions.

The United States has lost its war in Afghanistan and now, it appears, it wants to regain the lost ground by pressurizing Pakistan to toe its lines.

Pakistan has a clear policy on Afghanistan that reflects the national will and must be pursued in letter and spirit in close cooperation with some friendly regional countries.

 

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