US still hopes Pakistan will play its role in influencing a marauding Taliban

In a bid to leverage Islamabad’s perceived proximity to the Taliban in preventing the hardline Islamic militia from taking power by force, and persuade it to eschew violence and join the peace process, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said Pakistan has a vital role in influencing the Taliban and the United States hopes Islamabad plays that role

Jul 30, 2021
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Pakistan-Taliban

In a bid to leverage Islamabad’s perceived proximity to the Taliban in preventing the hardline Islamic militia from taking power by force, and persuade it to eschew violence and join the peace process, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said Pakistan has a vital role in influencing the Taliban and the United States hopes Islamabad plays that role.

Blinken’s remarks, in interviews to various international television channels, came amid a key visit to Washington by Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf and the Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence, Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed.

The Pakistani team, which arrived in Washington three days ago, is also busy explaining its position in meetings with senior US officials, lawmakers, think-tank experts and media representatives.

“Pakistan has a vital role to play in using its influence with the Taliban to do whatever it can to make sure that the Taliban does not seek to take the country by force,” the top US diplomat told Times Now. “And it does have influence, and it does have a role to play, and we hope that it plays it,” he added.

Blinken, who completed his two-day visit to India on Thursday, met External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar besides Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi and reviewed the latest developments in the region, particularly in Afghanistan, with them.

Although committed to withdrawing all US and Nato troops from Afghanistan by August 31 (as per Washington’s latest deadline), the Biden administration is using its diplomatic influence to prevent a Taliban takeover and that’s where it sees a role for Pakistan.

While Pakistan also wants to prevent a military takeover in Kabul, Prime Minister Imran Khan told US television show PBS News Hour this week that the US decision to set a timetable for withdrawing troops also has limited Islamabad’s options.

The prime minister indicated that the Taliban see the withdrawal as their victory and are less receptive to reconciliation efforts than they would have been had the timetable not been announced, said Dawn.

Foreign policy experts have been talking of Pakistan’s increasing strategic relevance, not limited to the US, as the Taliban continues to gain ground in its fight with the government troops in Afghanistan.

“That Pakistan is gaining renewed strategic relevance because it now controls the levers of influence over the dangerous force that may soon be presiding over a turbulent Afghanistan, is apparent from the overtures being made to Islamabad by the cluster of neighboring countries,” former Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said in an article in ThePrint.

In an interview with ABC News, Secretary Blinken said the entire world was hearing “deeply, deeply troubling” reports of atrocities in Afghanistan amid US withdrawal of troops. Such reports “certainly do not speak well of the Taliban’s intentions for the country as a whole.”

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Blinken warned that an Afghanistan that “does not respect the basic gains of the last 20 years, that Afghanistan will be a pariah in the international community.”

The interviews, released by the secretary’s office in Washington, reflect the growing US concern that the Taliban was determined to take Kabul by force, rejecting international efforts for bringing a government that is inclusive and includes all Afghan factions.

(SAM)