US Senator Lindsey Graham expressed his surprise on Tuesday at President Joe Biden’s decision of not including Pakistan in the strategy for withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, warning that ignoring Islamabad could be disastrous.
In a series of tweets, ahead of this week’s talks at the White House between Biden and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Kabul’s top negotiator Abdullah Abdullah, the ranking Republican senator from South Carolina criticised the Biden administration for believing that the US problems in Afghanistan were over.
Under a deal with the Taliban, the US agreed to withdraw its troops in exchange for a Taliban promise to denounce terrorist groups and enter negotiations with the Afghan government aimed at restoring peace to the war-battered country.
Biden said in April that the US would leave Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. The Pentagon said on Monday that it will complete its full withdrawal by September 11, but the pace of the pullout could be slowed given the Taliban’s gains.
On Friday, Biden will meet with Ghani and Abdullah, the head of the country’s High Council for National Reconciliation, which oversees the government’s negotiation team with the Taliban, to discuss the troop withdrawal amid a surge in fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban across the country.
In his tweet, Senator Graham questioned how could the US drawdown from Afghanistan be effective with coordinating with Pakistan. “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,” he wrote.
Stunning to hear that President Biden hasn’t reached out to the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan regarding the U.S.-Pakistan relationship and Afghanistan.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) June 22, 2021
“How do we expect our withdrawal from Afghanistan to be effective without coordinating with Pakistan?” he added.
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.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) June 22, 2021
“I believe that this decision by the Biden Administration to withdraw all forces and not stay engaged with Pakistan is a major disaster in the making, even worse than the blunder in Iraq.”
I believe that this decision by the Biden Administration to withdraw all forces and not stay engaged with Pakistan is a major disaster in the making, even worse than the blunder in Iraq.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) June 22, 2021
The tweets came as the US State Department called for an end to violence in Afghanistan, blaming Taliban for much of the bloodshed there. “The violence must cease,” spokesman Ned Price told reporters. “We urge the sides to engage in serious negotiations that determine a political roadmap for Afghanistan’s future,” he added.
Since early May, the Taliban have launched major offensives targeting government forces across the rugged countryside, and claim to have seized at least 87 of the country's 421 districts. Many of their claims are disputed by the government.
The head of the United Nations Afghanistan aid operation expressed strong concerns on Tuesday over military gains by the Taliban insurgents. “The Taliban’s recent advances are even more significant and are a result of an intensified military campaign,” Deborah Lyons told the UN Security Council.
“All of the major trends – politics, security, the peace process, the economy, the humanitarian emergency, and Covid – all of these trends are negative or stagnant,” Lyons, who leads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said via a video conference.
In the latest incident, the Taliban captured Afghanistan's main border crossing with Tajikistan, officials said, with security forces abandoning their posts, about 50 kilometres from Kunduz city, and some fleeing across the frontier.
Also read: Pakistan’s Afghanistan challenge
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the group had seized the border post, on the south bank of the Pyanj River. Shir Khan Bandar is marked by a 700-metre US-funded bridge that opened to great fanfare in 2007 with the aim of boosting trade between the Central Asian neighbours.
At the UN, Afghanistan’s foreign minister accused the Taliban of carrying out their worst violence in the past two decades and urged the international community to try to persuade the group to honour the February 2020 agreement with the United States to reduce violence and enter peace negotiations.
Mohammad Haneef Atmar told the UN Security Council that with the withdrawal of US and NATO troops “to be completed in the coming weeks,” the international community should also establish a “mechanism” to monitor implementation of the agreement reached in Doha.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AGENCIES)