WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that Pakistan has a vital role in influencing the Taliban and the United States hopes that Islamabad plays that role.
Secretary Blinken’s remarks, in an interview to various international television channels, come amid a key visit to Washington by Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf and the Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence, Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed.
“Pakistan has a vital role to play in using its influence with the Taliban to do whatever it can to make sure that the Taliban does not seek to take the country by force,” the top US diplomat told the Times of India channel. “And it does have influence, and it does have a role to play, and we hope that it plays it,” he added.
Secretary Blinken, who completed his two-day visit to India on Thursday, met External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi and reviewed the latest developments in the region, particularly in Afghanistan, with them.
In an interview to ABC News, Secretary Blinken said that the entire world was hearing “deeply, deeply troubling” reports of atrocities in Afghanistan amid US withdrawal. And such reports “certainly do not speak well of the Taliban’s intentions for the country as a whole.”
In an interview to Al Jazeera, the US Secretary of State warned that an Afghanistan that “does not respect the basic gains of the last 20 years, that Afghanistan will be a pariah in the international community.”
The interviews, released by the secretary’s office in Washington, reflect the growing US concern that the Taliban were determined to take Kabul by force, rejecting international efforts for bringing a government that includes all Afghan factions.
Although committed to withdrawing all US and Nato troops from Afghanistan by Sept 15, the Biden administration is using its diplomatic influence to prevent a Taliban takeover and that’s where it sees a role for Pakistan.
While Pakistan also wants to prevent a military takeover in Kabul, Prime Minister Imran Khan told a US television show — PBS News Hour — this week that the US decision to set a timetable for withdrawing troops also has limited Islamabad’s options.
The prime minister indicated that the Taliban see the withdrawal as their victory and are less receptive to reconciliation efforts than they would have been had the timetable not been announced.
The Pakistani team, which arrived in Washington three days ago, is also busy explaining its position in meetings with senior US officials, lawmakers, think-tank experts and media representatives.
Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2021