Monday May 29, 2023

Afghanistan to go decades back if world abandons Taliban-led govt, warns PM Imran

"Afghanistan should not be a US vs China camp, says PM Imran

By Web Desk
October 11, 2021
PM Imran Khan speaks to David Hearst and Peter Oborne of Middle East Eye.
PM Imran Khan speaks to David Hearst and Peter Oborne of Middle East Eye. 

ISLAMABAD: Stressing the need for the world’s engagement with the new government in Kabul, Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday called on the international community to refrain from pushing away the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan.

In an interview with the London-based online news outlet, 'Middle East Eye', PM Imran Khan warned that the world’s such behaviour would send the country back a couple of decades.

"Events in Afghanistan are still evolving, people like us still don't know where it will go," he said.

The prime minister said Afghanistan is a trade corridor that connects Pakistan to the Central Asian countries. "And so, it is a very important country that way," he said.

"It should not be a 'US vs China' camp. Now, it should be about economic ties, economic connectivity. That's what we are looking for," he added.

PM Imran Khan said the Taliban had people among their leadersship who had given a lot of sacrifices in blood. These people, he said, would now want to be a part of the government.

"And yet the government [in Afghanistan] is looking for international acceptability," he explained. "So it wants an inclusive government. It talks about human rights and not wanting its soil to be used for terrorism."

PM Imran Khan said it is a "critical point in Afghanistan" and called on the world to engage with the country.

‘Yet to speak to Biden’

While responding to a question about US President Joe Biden, the premier said he is yet to speak to arguably the most powerful person in the world.

"Well, you know, it's up to him. It's a superpower," he said.

When the interviewer told him he found that "absolutely astonishing" that the two heads of state had not yet spoken, PM Khan said:

"Well, our security chiefs have spoken. Our foreign minister has been in touch with the US secretary of state. But no, we haven't spoken, but we are in touch," he added.

The premier spoke about his visit to the US back in 2008, adding that he had spoken to Biden, John Kerry and Harry Reid – then all senators - warning them that they were creating a problem for themselves in Afghanistan.

Khan said he had warned the three that there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, however, he added that they did not listen to him.

He said a couple of years later, then Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, delivered the same message to US President Barack Obama.

"But unfortunately, they were led by their generals. And you know what generals always say: give us more troops and more time," he added.

‘Peaceful transfer of power in Afghanistan’

When asked about the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the cricketer-turned-politician said Islamabad was "relieved" as it expected a bloodbath when the Taliban were about to take over the capital a couple of months ago.

"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," he noted.

The prime minister said the Afghanistan Army, numbering around 300,000 troops, had surrendered without a fight to the Taliban. "So clearly we did not tell them to surrender."

When asked whether the Taliban had formed an inclusive government in the country, Khan admitted it was not one. However, he said the current Afghan government, as per the Taliban itself, was a transitionary one.

He said Pakistan was working with regional countries, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, who had more sizable ethnic populations, to ensure the Taliban agreed to a more diverse representation in its government.

Talks with TTP

The prime minister also spoke about his government's talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the outlawed outfit that has claimed responsibility for killing scores of people in Pakistan over the last couple of years.

He said Islamabad was trying to speak to elements within the TTP 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 explained.

"We now have to talk to those we can reconcile and [persuade to] give up their arms and live as normal citizens," he added.

While speaking about the sacrifices rendered by Pakistan in the War on Terror, he said that Pakistan had lost 80,000 citizens and its economy had been left devastated.

The prime minister said the Taliban had assured Islamabad that the TTP would not launch attacks against Pakistan. He accused India of instigating terrorism in Pakistan via Afghanistan, during the Ashraf Ghani-led government.

America's drone strikes in Pakistan

A longtime critic of America's drone strikes in Pakistan and other countries, PM Imran Khan lashed out at Washington's strategy to counter terrorism through drone attacks.

"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," he stressed.

When asked whether Pakistan will allow the US to launch strikes into Afghanistan, targeting Daesh, the prime minister said: "They don’t need a base here because we do not need to be part of a conflict again."