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U.S. to Assess Relationship with Pakistan in Days to Come: Antony Blinken

by Newsweek Pakistan

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of State

Secretary of State tells House committee Washington has urged Islamabad to not recognize Taliban government unless due rights for women ensured

The U.S. will be looking at the role Pakistan has played in Afghanistan in the past 20 years “in the days and weeks ahead” as well as the role Washington would like it to play in the coming years and “what it will take for it to do that,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday.

He was responding to a question by lawmakers on whether it was time for Washington to reconsider its relationship with Islamabad during a public hearing of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. Noting that Pakistan had a “multiplicity of interests,” the official admitted that some were in conflict with Washington’s desires.

“It is one [such interest] that involved hedging its bets constantly about the future of Afghanistan, it’s one that’s involved harboring members of the Taliban … It is one that’s also involved in different points cooperation with us on counterterrorism,” he said, adding that Washington had made it clear to Islamabad that it did not want the Taliban government recognized until it granted Afghan women their due rights and allowed Afghans to flee the country if they wished to do so.

“What we have to look at is an insistence that every country, to include Pakistan, make good on the expectations that the international community has of what is required of a Taliban-led government if it’s to receive any legitimacy of any kind or any support,” he said. “So Pakistan needs to line up with a broad majority of the international community in working toward those ends and in upholding those expectations,” he added.

Since the Taliban took over Kabul on Aug. 15, there have been growing calls in the U.S. and other Western countries to link any recognition of the group’s government to its fulfillment of pledges related to the formation of an inclusive government; granting of equal rights to women; and no retaliation against citizens who had earlier worked with foreign forces. Throughout this process, Pakistan has maintained that cutting off the Taliban economically would open up space for terrorist groups to secure a safe haven on its soil and urged the international community to continue its engagement with the group for the benefit of the Afghan people.

Referring to the relationship between Washington and the Taliban, Blinken reiterated President Joe Biden’s stance that the U.S.’s objectives in Afghanistan had been achieved. Reiterating that the incumbent government was merely adhering to a peace agreement it had inherited from its predecessor, he said that there had been great risk of attacks on foreign forces if it had been abandoned.

“The U.S. was likely to suffer more losses by staying in Afghanistan,” he said, reminding the committee that the Taliban had released 5,000 prisoners—many of them terrorists—ahead of their takeover. “There was no guarantee of the war ending anytime soon had the U.S. decided to stay in Afghanistan for a longer duration,” he said.

The U.S. official clarified that Washington had restarted its diplomatic mission in Afghanistan, stressing that any U.S. or Afghan citizens who remained in the country would not be abandoned. He said Washington was in contact with Qatar and Turkey to continue evacuation efforts at the Kabul airport, adding that just last week, 100 U.S. citizens had sent messages asking to be airlifted out of the country.

“The aircraft had room to take 60 people but only 30 showed up at the airport,” he said.

He also reiterated pledges from the Taliban that they would not allow Afghanistan’s soil to be used for terrorist activities against other countries. “The U.S. will continue to play its role to promote anti-terrorism in the region,” he said, referring to Daesh and Al Qaeda, adding that Washington would provide $330 million in aid for Afghanistan this year on humanitarian grounds.

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