During interaction with foreign press, Pakistan’s premier says Taliban have said they will not negotiate with Afghan government until Ashraf Ghani steps down
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday accused the United States of wanting Pakistan to “clean up its mess” in Afghanistan after having spent 20 years fighting against the Taliban in the war-torn state.
“The U.S. thinks Pakistan should clean up its mess in Afghanistan that spanned over 20 years,” he told a group of foreign journalists at his home in Islamabad. In recent weeks, amidst stalled peace talks and rising violence in Afghanistan, Washington has ramped up pressure on Islamabad to use its influence over the Taliban to bring them back to the negotiating table. Pakistani officials, however, have repeatedly stressed that their leverage over the insurgents has all but run out, as they believe they have “won” in light of the U.S. withdrawing all its troops from Afghanistan.
Regretting that the U.S. only considered Pakistan “useful” in the context of “fixing” its mistakes in Afghanistan, Khan said he believed this was because it had decided to side with Delhi against Islamabad. “I think that the Americans have decided that India is their strategic partner now, and I think that’s why there’s a different way of treating Pakistan now,” he said, adding that Pakistan was not picking any sides in the Afghan conflict.
To a query, the prime minister admitted that a political settlement to the Afghan war seemed increasingly unlikely. He said that he had tried to push the Taliban’s leadership to peace when they had last visited Pakistan. “Their condition was that as long as [Afghan President] Ashraf Ghani is there, we [Taliban] are not going to talk to the Afghan government,” he cited them as telling him.
Khan said he felt that Kabul was now trying to get the U.S. government to intervene on its behalf. “They’ve [Washington] been here for 20 years … what will they do now that they did not do for 20 years?” he said, reiterating that Pakistan had “made it very clear” to the Americans that it does not want any U.S. military bases on its soil after foreign troops completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Peace talks between the Taliban and the elected government in Kabul have been underway since September but have yet to yield any substantive progress. Representatives of several countries, including Pakistan and the U.S., are currently in Doha in a renewed push for a ceasefire.