Envoy rejects US lawmaker’s claim of Pakistan’s hand in Taliban advance

Ambassador to US Asad Khan says Congressman Mike Waltz mischaracterised Islamabad’s role in Afghanistan


APP August 24, 2021
Pakistan Ambassador to US Asad Majeed Khan. PHOTO: FILE

WASHINGTON:

Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Asad Majeed Khan, has disputed a claim by a US lawmaker that Pakistan’s military strategy led to the defeat of the Afghan army at the hands of the Taliban.

In a letter addressed to Republican Congressman Mike Waltz, a former US army officer who served in Afghanistan, the ambassador said that Islamabad and Washington had in fact been working together towards an inclusive political settlement in the war-torn country.

“Our two countries share a fundamental interest in ensuring that Afghanistan would never again become a sanctuary for terrorist groups,” he said. It was “unfortunate that your letter mischaracterises Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan”, he told Congressman Waltz.

The Pakistani envoy was responding to a letter written by Waltz to President Joe Biden, ahead of the fall of President Ashraf Ghani’s government, in which he had claimed that Pakistan’s military strategy was dictating the Taliban advance in Afghanistan and called for penalising Islamabad.

“The contention that Pakistan’s ‘military strategy’ was somehow the decisive factor in the defeat of the 300,000-strong Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDS) – trained and equipped at the cost of at least $83 billion to the American taxpayer – does not square with the US government’s own assessments about the issues of low morale, desertions, and ‘ghost soldiers’ that had long plagued the ANDSF,” he said.

“As the (US) Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction had been reporting (until it was barred from doing so by the Pentagon), the Afghan government had been steadily losing territory to the Taliban for many years, Khan said, adding that the final collapse of the Afghan government was thus shocking but hardly surprising.

“As someone who has served his country in uniform and with distinction, you know that demoralised soldiers do not fight for a corrupt, kleptocratic leadership that will bolt at the first hint of trouble,” he wrote to Congressman Waltz.

On its part, he said Pakistan’s leadership had consistently made it clear that it had no favourites in Afghanistan and would work with any government in Kabul that had the support of the Afghan people.

He pointed out that Pakistan had joined the United States, China, and Russia in explicitly opposing any effort to impose a government by force in Kabul. “We continued to urge both the Afghan government and the Taliban to show flexibility and engage more meaningfully in order to secure a political settlement and a comprehensive ceasefire. Unfortunately, neither side is in any mood to listen.”

Even after the fall of the Ghani regime, the letter said, “we have continued to support the formation of a broad-based government in Kabul” that represented Afghanistan’s ethnic diversity and preserved the impressive social and democratic gains it had made since 2001.

Read More: ‘Pakistan in control, China to cement grip in Afghanistan’s new Great Game’

“It may interest you to learn that on the very day that President Ghani abandoned his people and fled abroad, Pakistan was hosting a diverse group of Afghan politicians – including leaders from the former Northern Alliance – as part of its continuing efforts to promote a common understanding on Afghanistan’s political future,” Ambassador Khan said.

“The swift collapse of the Afghan government has, if anything, proven the futility of investing more effort and money into finding a military solution to a political problem.”

Recounting some of the efforts Pakistan was making in evacuating Americans and Afghans from Kabul, he said the Pakistani embassy in Kabul issuing visas. “Our doors and borders are open to the Afghan people who still look to Pakistan as their first port of call in moments of distress – notwithstanding the erstwhile Afghan regime’s deliberate campaign to poison relations between our two countries”.

Pakistan International Airlines, he added, had been ferrying foreign diplomats, journalists, and international aid workers out of Afghanistan, and that Pakistan has also been working closely with US authorities on the ground in Kabul and in Islamabad to support the safe and orderly evacuation of Americans and Afghans from Hamid Karzai International airport.

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