Taliban have been on a roll – since the withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan has begun. Towns after towns are falling to the sturdy militants – many without a fight. These rapid battlefield gains have left all in awe, including of course the US. Zalmay Khalilzad, the Special US Representative for Afghanistan, says: “I am surprised by the progress that the Taliban have made...”
Pentagon, however, still seem to believe that the Taliban’s march could not have been possible without Pakistan’s support. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesperson, has been quoted as telling a journalist during a news briefing in Washington on Thursday: “We know that the Taliban have been able to use safe havens … to refurbish, retrain, replenish themselves and to plan. And that’s something that we are in constant communication with Pakistan about.”
Kirby’s statement was followed a day later by a telephone call the Secretary of States, Anthony Blinken made to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. A tweet from Blinken about the telephonic talk only said he “look[s] forward to continuing cooperation on the Afghan peace process, tackling COVID-19, supporting regional stability, and other key issues”.
But what Qureshi has been quoted as saying about the conversation does give a glimpse of US expectations from Pakistan. Qureshi, according to the Foreign Office, said that securing peace in Afghanistan “is the shared responsibility of all stakeholders inside Afghanistan as well as key regional and international players”. In other words, the foreign minister dismissed the belief and the understanding that Islamabad holds the key to the solution of the Afghan crisis, and that Taliban’s resilience and success is rooted in support from Pakistan.
An official word from Pakistan Army made it louder and clearer to the world. Pakistan “is still a facilitator of this [Afghan] peace process, [but] we are not guarantors”, said ISPR chief Maj Gan Iftikhar Babar during an interview with a private television channel on Saturday.
This clearly shows the ‘do more’ pressure being applied to Pakistan. Stuck in FATF and IMF webs alongside grappling with the menace of terrorism at home, Pakistan needs to exercise all the care and caution over its strategy to deal with the Afghan situation.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2021.
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