US must ‘pull itself together’ and engage with Taliban: PM Imran Khan

Web DeskSenior Editor

12th Oct, 2021. 10:25 am

Prime Minister Imran Khan said the United States (US) has to “pull itself together” and deliver an aid package to Afghanistan or face its collapse which would become a haven for Islamic State militants.

In an interview with the Middle East Eye (MEE) in Islamabad, the premier said it was important to Pakistan that Washington steps up to the challenge because his country, where tens of thousands of people have died in conflict linked to the US-led “war on terror”, would once more pay a heavy price.

“It’s a critical time, and the US has to pull itself together because people in the United States are in a state of shock,” the premier said categorically.

“They were imagining some sort of democracy, nation-building or liberated women, and suddenly they find the Taliban are back. There is so much anger and shock and surprise. Unless America takes the lead, we are worried that there will be chaos in Afghanistan and we will be most affected by that.”

Two decades later, PM said the US had no other option but to do everything it could to support a stable government in Afghanistan because the Taliban was the only option for fighting Islamic State in the region and the hardline elements within the Taliban’s own ranks.

“The world must engage with Afghanistan because if it pushes it away, within the Taliban movement there are hardliners, and it could easily go back to the Taliban of 2000 and that would be a disaster.”

The Taliban are still on the US Treasury sanctions designation list, effectively preventing the group from accessing more than $9bn in US-held assets belonging to the Afghan Central Bank.

Biden ‘not listening’

PM stressed sanctioning the Taliban would lead to a humanitarian disaster, with half the population already below the poverty line, and 75 per cent of Afghanistan budget dependent on international aid.

“If they leave Afghanistan like this, my worry is that Afghanistan could easily revert back to 1989 when the Soviets and US left and over 200,000 Afghans died in the chaos,” he said.

PM Imran told MEE he had warned Biden, John Kerry and Harry Reid – then all senators – in 2008 that they were creating a quagmire in Afghanistan for which there was no military solution. “They did not listen,” he said.

“We have been so relieved because we expected a bloodbath but what happened was a peaceful transfer of power. But we also felt we were blamed for this. Three hundred thousand [Afghan army] troops surrendered without a fight, so clearly we did not tell them to surrender.”

Asked whether the Taliban had formed an inclusive government, PM Imran acknowledged it was not inclusive, but said the government was a transitional one.

“They need an inclusive government because Afghanistan is a diverse society.”

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