Pakistan Is Way Too Important for US To Overlook, Mooed
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s National Security Adviser (NSA) has chastised US President Joe Biden for failing to contact Prime Minister Imran Khan as Washington seeks assistance in preventing the Taliban from seizing control of Afghanistan following the withdrawal of US troops. The cold shoulder from Washington comes as the Taliban have captured swaths of territory across Afghanistan in a ruthless offensive emboldened by the US pullout.
In recent years, Washington has relied on Pakistan to bring senior Taliban leaders to the negotiating table and secure a deal to leave the country with few attacks on American troops.
Despite calls from Khan to be a partner for peace and broaden US-Pakistan relations beyond Afghanistan, Biden has yet to call him since taking office this year.
“The president of the United States hasn’t spoken to the prime minister of such an important country who the US itself says is make-or-break in some cases, in some ways, in Afghanistan — we struggle to understand the signal, right?” In an interview with the Financial Times at Pakistan’s embassy in Washington, Moeed Yusuf, Pakistan’s National Security Adviser, said.
“We’ve been told every time that . . . [the phone call] will happen, it’s technical reasons or whatever. But frankly, people don’t believe it,” he said. “If a phone call is a concession if a security relationship is a concession, Pakistan has options,” he added, refusing to elaborate.
Pakistan has developed deep ties with China, its “iron brother,” which has invested billions in infrastructure projects as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.
A senior Biden administration official said: “There are still several world leaders President Biden has not been able to speak with personally yet. He looks forward to speaking with Prime Minister Khan when the time is right.”
The diplomatic insult is the latest blow in US-Pakistan relations following their cooperation during the fight on terror following the 9/11 attack on the twin towers by al-Qaeda.
Pakistan was designated as an official major non-NATO partner by the United States in 2004, in response to Washington’s demand for assistance in Afghanistan.
However, successive US administrations have accused Pakistan of harboring Taliban, a charge disputed by Pakistan. The US cut $2 billion in security aid to Pakistan during the Trump administration after Donald Trump accused his ally of “nothing but lies & deceit”. After Trump made a deal with the Taliban that relied on help from Pakistan, however, he invited Khan to the White House.
Yusuf was part of a team visiting Washington that included the head of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency to discuss the Afghan crisis.
According to a source familiar with last week’s discussions with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, the conversation about Afghanistan was “tough,” but that securing a political settlement — which regional experts see as unlikely while the Taliban gains ground on the battlefield — could help dramatically improve the US-Pakistan relationship.
“There is a lot of effort underway to try to get that [negotiated settlement] process to be a more meaningful process,” said the person. “This is a moment where, arguably, our interests really align, but it’s really up to them to see what they want to do next.”
“There is no question of a civil-military disconnect in Pakistan, let me be categorical if the prime minister had not instructed me and the delegation to be here, we won’t have been here,” said Yusuf, who added that Pakistan had diminished leverage over the Taliban.
During their visit, PBS aired an interview with Khan in which he said the US “really messed it up” in Afghanistan and that Washington had treated Pakistan “more like a hired gun.” One of a recent slew of critical pieces aimed at US audiences struck some US officials as oddly timed given Pakistan’s efforts to secure a reset.
Yusuf described his conversation with Sullivan as “constructive,” but added that if such media appearances backfired, Pakistan would “reconsider,” adding that the goal was “not to upset anybody [but] to put very forthrightly Pakistan’s view on the situation.”
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