Biden’s reluctance in engaging Pakistan stunning, says US senator

Published June 23, 2021
US Senator Lindsey Graham speaks during a news conference in Cairo on April 3, 2016. — Reuters
US Senator Lindsey Graham speaks during a news conference in Cairo on April 3, 2016. — Reuters

WASHINGTON: A senior US senator, Lindsey Graham, on Tuesday described American President Joe Biden’s reluctance to reach out to Prime Minister Imran Khan as ‘stunning,” and warned that ignoring Pakistan while withdrawing from Afghanistan could lead to a disaster.

“Stunning to hear that President Biden hasn’t reached out to the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan regarding the US-Pakistan relationship and Afghanistan,” the South Carolina Republican wrote on his Twitter.

Senator Graham, who supports continued US engagement with Kabul and Islamabad, reminded President Biden that his planned withdrawal from Afghanistan requires Pakistan’s cooperation.

“How do we expect our withdrawal from Afghanistan to be effective without coordinating with Pakistan? Clearly the Biden Administration believes that our problems in Afghanistan are behind us,” he wrote.

The Republican lawmaker who also influenced the Trump administration’s Afghan policies warned that the Biden administration’s “decision to withdraw all forces and not stay engaged with Pakistan is a major disaster in the making, even worse than the blunder in Iraq.”

President Biden’s reluctance to engage with Pakistani leaders was highlighted in an interview the prime minister gave to an American television channel earlier this week when the interviewer asked him if he had spoken to Mr. Biden since he took office. “No, I have not,” the prime minister said.

“Is there a reason for that?” the interviewer asked. “Whenever he has time, he can speak to me. But now, clearly, he has other priorities,” the prime minister said.

Pakistan’s key role in a post-withdrawal Afghanistan echoed at several recent hearings in the US Congress as well. At one of these hearings, lawmakers also referred to a recent statement by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, stating that Pakistan will now play a decisive role in determining Afghanistan’s future and the United States will only have a minor role now in the country after the troop pullout.

Read: Pakistan wants strategic, broad ties, US legislators told

Congressman Ted Lieu, a California Democrat and a former US Air Force colonel, asked if Pakistan was so important for the success of the Afghan peace process, why was it not being treated accordingly.

“I am just curious about what happened earlier this year when 40 world leaders were invited to the climate summit, including the leaders of India and Bangladesh. And the leader of Pakistan was not invited, even though Pakistan is the fifth most climate vulnerable country. Even though 35 of the 40 countries invited have populations smaller than Pakistan’s,” he said.

“It seems to be disrespectful to not have invited the Pakistani leader to this climate summit when the leaders of India and Bangladesh were invited.”

Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2021

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