NSA assails world’s ‘wait and watch’ policy on Afghanistan

Published September 16, 2021
NATIONAL Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf speaking at the press conference.—White Star
NATIONAL Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf speaking at the press conference.—White Star

ISLAMABAD: National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf on Wednesday denounced the world’s ‘wait and watch’ policy on recognising Afghanistan’s Taliban regime as a flawed strategy that would push the war-ravaged country further towards economic collapse.

Speaking at a media conference, Mr Yusuf said: “Wait and see means collapse.”

He recalled that the West made the same mistake in the 1990s that led to economic collapse, civil war, and international terrorism. The Western leaders, he said, had acknowledged the mistake and pledged not to repeat it.

Taliban earlier this month announced an interim government after taking over Kabul on August 15. However, the world has been cautious about engaging with the new administration.

Says a security vacuum in the presence of militant groups in the neighbouring country will spell disaster

Countries have said they would first see Taliban’s policies — especially with regard to human rights, women, taking other political actors along, and terrorist groups present in Afghanistan — before according legitimacy to the new regime. Some actions of the new government have added to that scepticism.

Afghanistan’s economy, which has remained heavily dependent on foreign assistance, has been teetering on the edge of collapse because most of the donors have blocked the new regime’s access to funds. The US has frozen Afghan assets worth $9 billion that are held in its banks.

The future of international assistance depends on recognition of the Taliban government by the international community.

Economic troubles have aggravated the humanitarian crisis in the war-ravaged country because of food and medicine shortages. A donors’ conference hosted by the United Nations earlier this week raised $1.1 billion for humanitarian aid for Afghanistan.

Mr Yusuf said: “Humanitarian assistance is a stopgap arrangement that does not equate with governance, (and) institutional and economic support needed to survive in conditions facing Afghanistan.”

Pakistan has been the Taliban regime’s most ardent supporter in the current crisis. It not only shipped relief goods to Afghanistan, but has also been forcefully advocating international recognition for Taliban.

The security adviser, however, said Pakistan neither had enough resources to meet Taliban government’s needs nor could it grant it legitimacy by itself. “It is for the West to do so,” he further said.

He recalled that the West had remained engaged with the Taliban until recently. Their engagement, he said, resulted in the Doha agreement and helped the evacuation of foreign nationals from Afghanistan after the fall of Ashraf Ghani’s government.

He said it was in the world’s own interest to engage with Taliban, especially on their counterterrorism concerns. They should talk directly to the Taliban on their concerns, whether they are about human rights, inclusive government, or other issues.

“If the world is interested in this conversation, it needs to happen directly with the new government. For influencing and moulding governance in the way the world wants, it should have conversation with them. Without engagement that would not be possible,” he maintained.

Mr Yusuf warned that the consequences of abandoning Afghanistan would be dire. The country, he feared, could once again become a safe haven for terrorists.

He said: “If abandonment happens there would be a security vacuum (in Afghanistan). You already know ISIS (the militant Islamic State group) is already present there, Pakistani Taliban are there, Al Qaeda is there. Why do we risk a security vacuum?”

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2021

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