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High time US stepped up to the challenge in Afghanistan: PM Khan

PM Khan says that the US had no other option but to do everything it could to support a stable government in Afghanistan because the Taliban are the only option for fighting Islamic State in the region and to prevent the ascendency of hardline elements within the Taliban’s own ranks.

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Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday asked the United States to “pull itself together” or face the collapse of Afghanistan which would become a haven of terrorists.

“It’s a really critical time and the US has to pull itself together because people in the United States are in a state of shock,” he told Middle East Eye, a London-based online news outlet, in an interview here.

He said it was vital for Pakistan that Washington stepped up to the challenge because the former would have to pay a heavy price having already sacrificed tens of thousands of people after joining the US-led “war on terror”.

“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.”

Read more: Former Pentagon official says US shouldn’t trust Pakistan?

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

The prime minister reiterated his call for the world to 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.

He said sanctioning the Taliban would soon lead to a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan where half the population already lived below the poverty line, and 75 percent of the national budget was dependent on foreign 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, referring to the civil war that followed Soviet retreat from the country.

Imran Khan told MEE that 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. He said they did not listen.

Two years later General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, then chief of the army staff, delivered the same message to US President Barack Obama, he added.

“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.”

Read more: The beginning of a new era in Afghanistan

Asked whether the Taliban had formed an inclusive government, Khan conceded it was not inclusive, but said the government was a transitional one.

The prime minister said Pakistan was working with neighbouring states, notably Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, which had sizeable ethnic minorities inside Afghanistan, to encourage the Taliban to widen representation.

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

Imran Khan said the Taliban should be given time: “They have made the right statements and have no other option. What else are we going to do if we sanction them? The best way is to incentivise them to walk the talk.

“But if you force them, I would imagine the nature of the people is such that they will push back and it would be counterproductive.”

He said there were clearly different currents within the movement and a lack of clear leadership on some issues.

Read more: Pakistan engaging with the TTP: A right move?

He said the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) consisted of 50 groups and that he was trying to reconcile those elements who were willing to talk.

“Now we are trying to talk to those who can be reconciled because it’s from a position of strength. I always believed all insurgencies eventually end up on the dialogue table, like the IRA [Irish Republican Army] for instance,” he said, referring to the Northern Irish peace deal.

Courtesy: APP

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