US senators seek assessment of Pakistan’s role in America’s Afghan debacle

Published September 29, 2021
This photo shows the US Capitol dome and US Senate (R) in Washington on August 2. — Reuters
This photo shows the US Capitol dome and US Senate (R) in Washington on August 2. — Reuters

Twenty two US senators have moved a bill in the Senate that seeks to assess Pakistan’s alleged role in Afghanistan before and after the fall of Kabul and in the Taliban offensive in Panjshir Valley.

Senator Jim Risch, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and other Republicans introduced the Afghanistan Counterterrorism, Oversight, and Accountability Act in the Senate on Monday to address outstanding issues related to the Biden administration’s “rushed and disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

The proposed legislation calls for a comprehensive report on who supported the Taliban during America's 20 years in Afghanistan, helped the group in capturing Kabul in mid-August and supported their offensive on Panjshir Valley.

Read: 'Convenient scapegoat': PM Imran says Pakistan should not be blamed for Afghan war's outcome

The proposed legislation requires the secretary of state, in consultation with the secretary of defence and the director of national intelligence, to submit a report on entities providing support to the Taliban to the appropriate congressional committees.

The report must reach the relevant committees “not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this act, and not less frequently than annually thereafter”.

The first report shall include “an assessment of support by state and non-state actors, including the government of Pakistan, for the Taliban between 2001 and 2020,” including the provision of sanctuary space, financial support, intelligence support, logistics and medical support, training, equipping, and tactical, operation or strategic direction.

The legislation also requires “an assessment of support by state and non-state actors, including the government of Pakistan, for the September 2021 offensive of the Taliban against the Panjshir Valley and the Afghan resistance”.

Read: 'It's preposterous': NSA dismisses claims of Pakistan supporting Taliban in Panjshir

“We continue to see the grave implications of the Biden administration’s haphazard withdrawal from Afghanistan,” Senator Risch said in a statement issued by his office.

“We face a renewed terror threat against the United States, and the Taliban wrongly seek recognition at the United Nations, even as they suppress the rights of Afghan women and girls.”

Senator Risch said he was proud to introduce the legislation to address these concerns and rebuild America’s credibility.

“I hope the committee will be able to mark it up soon so that we can quickly help those we left behind and protect America’s national security interests before it’s too late,” he added.

The proposed bill also seeks to impose sanctions on the Taliban and others in Afghanistan for terrorism, drug-trafficking, and human rights abuses, as well as on those providing support to the Taliban, including foreign governments.

It states that the US should not recognise any member of the Taliban as the ambassador of Afghanistan to the United States or as the ambassador of Afghanistan to the United Nations, and places restrictions on non-humanitarian foreign assistance to the war-torn country.

It also calls for a comprehensive review of foreign assistance to entities that support the Taliban.

The bill also seeks to establish a US State Department task force to focus on the evacuation of American citizens, legal permanent residents, and Afghan Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) who are still stuck in Afghanistan, as well as impose oversight mechanisms on the processing of SIVs and refugees.

It also calls for strategies for counterterrorism and for the disposition of Taliban-captured US equipment.

'Pakistan being scapegoated'

Reacting to the development, federal Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari said that Pakistan will once again be made to pay a heavy price for being an ally of the US in the 'War on Terror'.

"Twenty years of presence by economically and militarily powerful US & Nato left behind chaos with no stable governance structures. Pakistan is now being scapegoated for this failure," she said.

"This was never our war. We suffered 80,000 casualties, a decimated economy, over 450 drone attacks by our US 'ally' and the disastrous fallout of these attacks on our tribal areas and people," she said.

She called on the US Senate to do "serious introspection".

"Enough is enough. It is time for those powers that were present in Afghanistan to look to their own failures instead of targeting Pakistan which paid a heavy price [...] for being an ally and suffering constant abuse in a war that wasn't ours," the minister said.

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