US pullout from Afghanistan a test for Pakistan, other neighbours

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“We’re staying in the game.”


Washington

The United States wants to “stay in the game” in Afghanistan and sees a role for Pakistan within this game. However, it wants Islamabad to realise that it is in its own interest to do so.

This is how US State Secretary Antony Blinken outlined his strategy for maintaining peace and stability in Afghanistan after September 11, 2021, when all US and Nato forces would have moved out of the war-ravaged country.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4 on Thursday, the chief US diplomat made it clear that the US was only withdrawing its troops from the country and was not leaving Afghanistan.
“We’re pulling our forces out of Afghanistan, we are not withdrawing.

We are not leaving. We are remaining deeply engaged when it comes to supporting Afghanistan — economically, development assistance, humanitarian, supporting its security forces,” he said. “We’re staying in the game.”

The interviewer reminded him that such a deep involvement would require continued support from Afghanistan’s neighbours, particularly Pakistan, which has the shortest, all-season supply route to Afghanistan.

“Does not having to rely on Pakistan for a supply chain essentially change the dynamics, change what’s possible for you when it comes to influence in Afghanistan?” the interviewer asked.

Secretary Blinken, however, argued that the Biden administration’s plan to withdraw all foreign troops by Sept 11 would be an eye-opener for all “free riders” in the neighbourhood.

“The decision has concentrated the minds of pretty much everyone inside and outside of Afghanistan and the region as well. For the last 20 years, they’ve been — to some extent — free riders on us, on Nato, on our partners,” he said.

He was referring to a popular perception in the US that American and Nato troops were being killed in Afghanistan, while its neighbours benefitted from their presence without making any contribution.—Agencies