• Says Taliban told him no talks possible till Ghani holds office
• Believes Americans have decided that India is their strategic partner now
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan accused the United States of seeing Pakistan as useful only in the context of the “mess” it is leaving behind in Afghanistan after 20 years of fighting.
Washington has been pressing Islamabad to use its influence over the Taliban to broker an elusive peace deal as negotiations between the insurgents and Afghan government have stalled, and violence in Afghanistan has escalated sharply.
“Pakistan is just considered only to be useful in the context of somehow settling this mess which has been left behind after 20 years of trying to find a military solution when there was not one,” Mr Khan told foreign journalists at his home in Islamabad. The United States will pull out its military by Aug 31, 20 years after toppling the Taliban government in 2001. But, as the United States leaves, the Taliban today control more territory than at any point since then.
Mr Khan said Islamabad was not taking sides in Afghanistan.
“I think that the Americans have decided that India is their strategic partner now, and I think that’s why there’s a different way of treating Pakistan now,” he said.
A political settlement in Afghanistan was looking difficult under current conditions, he added.
The prime minister said he tried to persuade the Taliban leaders when they were visiting Pakistan to reach a settlement.
“The condition is that as long as [President] Ashraf Ghani is there, we (Taliban) are not going to talk to the Afghan government,” Mr Khan said, quoting the Taliban leaders as telling him.
Peace talks between the Taliban, who view President Ghani and his government as US puppets, and a team of Kabul-nominated Afghan negotiators started last September but have made no substantive progress.
Representatives of a number of countries, including the US, are currently in the Qatari capital of Doha talking to both sides in a last-ditch push for a ceasefire.
US forces have continued to use air strikes to support Afghan forces against the Taliban advances, but it remains unclear if such support will continue after Aug 31.
Mr Khan said Pakistan had “made it very clear” that it does not want any American military bases in Pakistan after US forces exit Afghanistan.
Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2021