Prime Minister Imran Khan has urged the United States to deliver an aid package to Afghanistan to prevent the collapse of the Afghan state so that it does not turn into a safe haven for global terrorists, particularly the Islamic State.
In an interview with Middle East Eye, broadcasted on Monday, the premier said the US has no other option but to support the new Taliban regime because a failure to do so will result in a humanitarian disaster as well.
“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 said in reference to the fall of Kabul to the Taliban forces in August.
“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.”
Imran said the support to the Taliban will also keep in check the rise of the Islamic State in Afghanistan and the US should do everything to support a stable government in the country.
The premier added that, “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.”
According to PM Imran, 75 per cent of the Afghan national budget depended on foreign aid which means imposing sanctions on the Taliban would result in a humanitarian crisis. He warned that abandoning Afghanistan as the US did in the 1990s would result in a civil war.
The PM told the media outlet that he had warned Joe 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.
Two years later, then Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani delivered the same message to US President Barack Obama, but nobody listened.
“But unfortunately, they were led by their generals. And do you know what generals always say: give us more troops and more time.”
Speaking about the Kabul takeover, Imran 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.”
In a response to a question on an inclusive government in Afghanistan, PM Imran said that the current set-up in Afghanistan was not inclusive, but he termed it a “transitional” government.
“They need an inclusive government because Afghanistan is a diverse society,” he said, adding that Pakistan was in contact with neighbouring states, notably Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, to encourage the Taliban to widen representation.
Speaking about the state of fundamental rights, Imran said the Taliban should be given incentives to make true on their promises.
“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.”
According to the PM, there were clearly different currents within the movement and a lack of clear leadership on some issues.
Talking about the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the premier said that the TTP consisted of 50 groups and the government was interested in talks with factions that were willing to reconcile.
“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.
He said the Afghan Taliban gave assurance to Pakistan that the TTP won’t be allowed to use the Afghan soil against Pakistan, adding that the former regime in Kabul and Indian intelligence agencies facilitated TTP attacks.
Khan further condemned the continued use of drones by the US in Afghanistan.
“It is the most insane way of fighting terrorism. Doing a drone attack on a village mud hut and expecting there will not be casualties. And a lot of time the drones targeted the wrong people.”
Asked whether Pakistan would allow the US to launch strikes targeting IS in Afghanistan from Pakistan, Imran said: “They don’t need a base here because we do not need to be part of a conflict again.”
“No country paid such a heavy price as us. Eighty thousand Pakistanis died. The economy was devastated. $150bn was lost to the economy. It was called the most dangerous place on earth. Three-and-a-half million people were internally displaced.”
Imran said it was too early to comment on the regional effect of the US exit, but he said China, as an emerging power, would fill in the vacuum. He said China had stood by Pakistan during its darkest recent days.
“Who was the country that came to help? We were going belly up. It was China that helped us. You always remember those who help you in difficult times.”
Modi copying Israeli tactics
During the interview, Imran said Indian PM Narendra Modi was using the tactics employed by Israel in Palestine to change the demography of Indian Occupied Kashmir. PM Imran said India breached the Geneva Convention by changing the Indian constitution to end Kashmiri autonomy.
According to the premier, India enjoys impunity in the international community because the West sees it as a “bulwark against China”.
But he said India had also benefited from a deepening strategic and military relationship with Israel, forged by Modi’s visit to the country in July 2017.
“[Israel has] built such a strong security apparatus and [they] just crush anything. They send people who kill and assassinate and they have total immunity,” he said.
“Whatever the UN General Assembly says, they have complete confidence in the veto the US has in the Security Council. So they get away with anything. And I feel that India feels [it has immunity] because they are being used… as a bulwark against China.”
Imran also talked about the volatile Line of Control. He said, “If you look at the flashpoints, probably the nuclear flashpoint right now in the world is Pakistan-India because nowhere else is there a situation where there are two nuclear-armed countries who have had three wars before they were nuclear-armed.”
He added: “We have not had a war since then because of the [nuclear] deterrent.” He, however, said the first few months of his premiership were “nervous and dangerous”. “Once two nuclear-armed countries get into the situation like we did, it can go anywhere.”