Blinken’s remarks — our response

Pakistani officials were “surprised” by Blinken’s language which did not reflect the close cooperation


September 18, 2021

Pakistan won’t toe the US line on Afghanistan, especially as far as granting or denying formal recognition of the Taliban government is concerned. This decision, says Foreign Office Spokesman Asim Iftikhar, is in line with Pakistan’s own interests rather than the US demand to defer recognition till the Taliban meet certain conditions. These remarks from the Foreign Office came a couple of days after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “Pakistan needs to line up with a broad majority of the international community.”

Blinken’s comments followed a continuing push by Pakistan to get the world to accept that the Taliban are the “new reality” in Afghanistan. However, it must also be noted that the State Department did try to explain away some of Blinken’s comments hours after the secretary’s appearance before Congress. Ned Price, the department’s spokesman, said Pakistan had independently called on the Taliban to abide by many of the US conditions, including forming an inclusive government.

The Foreign Office spokesperson, meanwhile, also said that Pakistani officials were “surprised” by Blinken’s language which did not reflect the close cooperation between the two countries concerning Afghanistan. He noted that the State Department’s spokesman and other US officials had been full of praise for Pakistan’s recent role, meaning that Blinken appeared to be going against his department’s previously stated position.

Price also tried to clarify Blinken’s comments, claiming that his boss intended to say that the US will call on regional countries to “make good on their public statements, on commitments they have made”. He also said the conditions concerning Afghanistan had to do with uncontroversial issues such as upholding human rights and cooperating on counterterrorism.

These conditions seemed in line with what Pakistani officials have been saying. However, it must be noted that while both countries have been cooperating immensely behind the scenes, including at the military level, it is clear that the Biden administration has kept Pakistan’s elected leadership at arm’s length. After all, the last time we checked, ‘that’ phone call still hadn’t happened. In this light, Blinken’s comments that the US would reanalyse its relationship with Pakistan is unfortunate but not unexpected.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2021.

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