US will assess Pakistan ties over Afghanistan future: Antony Blinken

Sept 14, 2021: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that the US will look at its relations with Pakistan in the coming weeks to determine what role Washington wants to play in Afghanistan’s future.

In the first public hearing in Congress since the fall of the US-backed Afghan government last month, Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Pakistan has “many interests that conflict with ours.”

“It is one that is involved hedging its bets constantly about the future of Afghanistan, it’s one that’s involved harbouring members of the Taliban … It is one that’s also involved in different points cooperation with us on counterterrorism,” Blinken said.

Asked if it was time for US to reconsider its relationship with Pakistan, Blinken said the administration was doing so soon. “This is one of the things we are seeing in days and weeks – the role that Pakistan has played in the last 20 years, but also the role that we want to see it play in the years to come.”he said.

Blinken also called on Pakistan to legally deny the Taliban legitimacy until it meets international demands.

“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,” Blinken told the US House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“Priorities include ensuring that the Taliban expel those who want to leave Afghanistan and respect the rights of women, girls and minorities, as well as sticking to the promise that the country will return to foreign direction, “he said.

And that it does not become a haven for terrorism. “Therefore, Pakistan needs to align itself with the vast majority of the international community to work towards these goals and meet those expectations,” Blinken said.

Blinken said Pakistan’s policies have “been detrimental to our interests on many occasions, and in support of those interests on other occasions.”

During the hearing, Blinken insisted that the Biden administration had prepared for the worst in Afghanistan, as angry lawmakers accused the White House of presiding over a historic disaster.

The US diplomat remained cool as he faced the most difficult of his career at the first congressional hearing on the end of President Joe Biden’s 20-year war, which was quickly won by the Taliban.

When rival Republicans raised their voices, waved pictures of fallen soldiers and occasionally demanded their resignation, Blinken repeatedly noted that former President Donald Trump had set a timetable for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“We inherited a deadline, we didn’t inherit any plans,” Blinken told the US House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Blinken said that after Trump’s agreement with the Taliban in February 2020 and the withdrawal of US troops, the movement was “in the strongest military position since 9/11”, 20 years ago.

Blinken said the Biden administration was “intensely focused” on protecting Americans and was “constantly reviewing” how long the Western-backed government could survive.

“Even the most disappointing estimates did not predict that government forces would fall in Kabul while US forces would remain,” Blinken said.

“The evacuation itself was an extraordinary effort – in the most difficult of circumstances to be imagined – by our diplomats, our military, our intelligence professionals.”

Blinken, however, suggested that the Taliban violated the accord through their “relentless march,” even as the Trump administration pressed the former Afghan government to free battle-hardened fighters.

The US and its allies eventually evacuated 124,000 people from Afghanistan, one of the largest airplanes in history.

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