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In touch with Pakistan on Afghanistan: State Dept

September 17, 2021
In touch with Pakistan on Afghanistan: State Dept

WASHINGTON: US expects Pakistan to work constructively for betterment of the Afghan people and to ensure that the “gains” achieved in Afghanistan over the past two decades were preserved, the Department of State said on Wednesday.

Responding to a question about Secretary Antony Blinken's statement in which he had said that the US would be reassessing its relationship with Pakistan in the coming days, the spokesperson clarified that the secretary was referring to multiple mutual concerns about Afghanistan.

"We are going to continue to look to Pakistan and to other countries in the region to make good on their public statements, on commitments they have made, to in different ways step up to support the people of Afghanistan and to work constructively not only with us but the international community to see to it that the priorities that we share," the spokesperson said during a press briefing.

The shared priorities, he said, includes the humanitarian concerns, the rights and the gains of the Afghan people over the past 20 years, "as well as the counterterrorism concerns that we all have - to ensure that we are all walking in the same direction."

He said the administration officials had been in regular touch with the Pakistani leadership to discuss Afghanistan in some detail. He also mentioned that Pakistan was represented at the ministerial that Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Maas convened last week at Ramstein Airbase in Germany.

"Pakistan contributed to that forum, echoed much of what we heard from other participants," he said, adding that Pakistan had frequently advocated for an inclusive government with broad support in Afghanistan.

"There was a good deal of consensus that the gains of the past 20 years, especially on the part of Afghanistan's women and girls and minorities, were preserved. Easing the humanitarian plight of the people of Afghanistan is in everyone's interest. That includes Pakistan as well as countries that may be farther afield," he said.

The Secretary of State appeared before a Congressional committee earlier this week where he was questioned about Pakistan's role in Afghanistan. The secretary told the committee members, "This is one of the things we are going to be looking at in the days, and weeks ahead - the role that Pakistan has played over the last 20 years but also the role we would want to see it play in the coming years and what it will take for us to do that."

While some lawmakers criticized Pakistan's role and blamed the Biden administration for the difficult US pullout from Afghanistan, Senator Chris van Hollen attempted to set the record straight.

In a 'rapid-fire' style questioning, the Senator asked, "Is it not the fact that the Trump administration asked the Pakistani government to release three top Taliban commanders as part of that process?" The secretary answered, "That's correct."

Senator Hollen also pointed out that the Trump administration had reached an agreement with the Taliban according to which the US forces had to leave Afghanistan by May and that the Biden administration had little choice but to follow the terms.

"And so, we pick a date. We say to the Taliban you can attack Afghan forces and then we say, now let's negotiate the future of Afghanistan. Isn’t the way it was set up when you walked in?" he asked to which the secretary replied, "that's essentially, yes."

"I think a number of those countries, at least Pakistan - like India, like the others - have an interest in preventing chaos and civil war in Afghanistan," Senator Van Hollen said then later adding, "Obviously, we asked them to release the Taliban prisoners. So, obviously, we have to keep an eye on the ISI. I get that, but let's all work together to achieve the goal of a stable Afghanistan that protects the rights of its people."

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