Taliban’s military strategy:
Waltz asks Biden for action,
Pak envoy denies charges

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WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s senior diplomat in the United States, Asad Majeed Khan, has denied that his country’s military strategy led to the recent Taliban ascendency in Afghanistan, saying that the administration in Islamabad had been striving for an inclusive political settlement in the war-torn country along with other international stakeholders.

According to the Associated Press of Pakistan, Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan issued the statement in response to a letter Republican Congressman Mike Waltz wrote to US President Joe Biden earlier this month.

Mike Waltz in uniform

Waltz maintained that “Pakistan’s military strategy [was] dictating the Taliban” while advocating that the US should “cut off all aid” and “consider sanctioning Pakistan.”

In a letter addressed to Republican Congressman Mike Waltz, a former US army officer who served in Afghanistan, the ambassador said that Islamabad and Washington had in fact been working together towards an inclusive political settlement in the war-torn country.

“Our two countries share a fundamental interest in ensuring that Afghanistan would never again become a sanctuary for terrorist groups,” he said. It was “unfortunate that your letter mischaracterises Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan”, he told Congressman Waltz.

The Pakistani envoy was responding to a letter written by Waltz to President Joe Biden, ahead of the fall of President Ashraf Ghani’s government, in which he had claimed that Pakistan’s military strategy was dictating the Taliban advance in Afghanistan and called for penalising Islamabad.

“The contention that Pakistan’s ‘military strategy’ was somehow the decisive factor in the defeat of the 300,000-strong Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDS) – trained and equipped at the cost of at least $83 billion to the American taxpayer – does not square with the US government’s own assessments about the issues of low morale, desertions, and ‘ghost soldiers’ that had long plagued the ANDSF,” he said.

U.S. Congressman Mike Waltz

“As the (US) Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction had been reporting (until it was barred from doing so by the Pentagon), the Afghan government had been steadily losing territory to the Taliban for many years, Khan said, adding that the final collapse of the Afghan government was thus shocking but hardly surprising.

“As someone who has served his country in uniform and with distinction, you know that demoralised soldiers do not fight for a corrupt, kleptocratic leadership that will bolt at the first hint of trouble,” he wrote to Congressman Waltz.

On its part, he said Pakistan’s leadership had consistently made it clear that it had no favourites in Afghanistan and would work with any government in Kabul that had the support of the Afghan people.

He pointed out that Pakistan had joined the United States, China, and Russia in explicitly opposing any effort to impose a government by force in Kabul. “We continued to urge both the Afghan government and the Taliban to show flexibility and engage more meaningfully in order to secure a political settlement and a comprehensive ceasefire. Unfortunately, neither side is in any mood to listen.”

Even after the fall of the Ghani regime, the letter said, “we have continued to support the formation of a broad-based government in Kabul” that represented Afghanistan’s ethnic diversity and preserved the impressive social and democratic gains it had made since 2001.

Pak envoy Asad Majeed Khan

“It may interest you to learn that on the very day that President Ghani abandoned his people and fled abroad, Pakistan was hosting a diverse group of Afghan politicians – including leaders from the former Northern Alliance – as part of its continuing efforts to promote a common understanding on Afghanistan’s political future,” Ambassador Khan said.

“The swift collapse of the Afghan government has, if anything, proven the futility of investing more effort and money into finding a military solution to a political problem.”

Recounting some of the efforts Pakistan was making in evacuating Americans and Afghans from Kabul, he said the Pakistani embassy in Kabul issuing visas. “Our doors and borders are open to the Afghan people who still look to Pakistan as their first port of call in moments of distress – notwithstanding the erstwhile Afghan regime’s deliberate campaign to poison relations between our two countries”.

Pakistan International Airlines, he added, had been ferrying foreign diplomats, journalists, and international aid workers out of Afghanistan, and that Pakistan has also been working closely with US authorities on the ground in Kabul and in Islamabad to support the safe and orderly evacuation of Americans and Afghans from Hamid Karzai International airport.

Congressman Mike Waltz’s letter to Joe Biden

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Friday, August 13, U.S. Congressman Mike Waltz (FL-6) sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging the Administration to take immediate steps to provide assistance to the Afghan people in their fight against the Taliban and make significant changes to their regional strategy.

US President Joe Biden

In the letter, Congressman Waltz requested President Biden provide military resources to assist the Afghan National Security Forces including air support to blunt the Taliban offensive, immediately cut off aid to Pakistan and consider sanctions, and ask for Special Representative Zalmay Khalizad’s resignation due to his catastrophic diplomatic strategy.

Dear Mr. President,

As you are undoubtedly aware, our ally, the Government of Afghanistan, is in a desperate fight to defend its country from the clutches of the Taliban and preventing the country from once again becoming a safe-haven for terrorism. Since your withdrawal decision and the subsequent pullout of American military, intelligence, and contractor resources, the situation in Afghanistan has rapidly deteriorated with the Taliban on the move, positioning themselves militarily to seize control. Just this week, the Taliban has launched offensives to capture Afghanistan’s second and third largest cities, Herat and Kandahar, in a clear effort to isolate and seize Kabul.

Mr. President, the Afghan Government and its people desperately need our help and I urge you to reverse course and provide military resources to assist the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). There is still time to prevent complete catastrophe. The United States must respond to the Taliban’s offensive with military force. Continuing to plead with the Taliban to negotiate diplomatically not only is an ill-fated pursuit it bolsters their standing in Jihadi circles and strengthens their narrative of eventual victory. The Taliban only understand strength and leverage.

First, I ask you to commit U.S. air support to blunt the Taliban offensive. Taliban forces are exposed on the ground much as they were in 2001. Air support will give the Government of Afghanistan and ANSF time to regroup and turn the tide of battle. They are doing the fighting and dying on the ground, but American air support will bolster their resolve and change the battlefield psychology.

Second, the United States should leverage our resources to influence Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s military strategy is dictating the Taliban. At the least, Pakistan is complicit with Taliban advance and is choosing not to coordinate with the ANSF. At worst, the Pakistani military and intelligence services may be directly aiding the Taliban offensive. Accordingly, the United States must immediately cut off all aid to Pakistan. Additionally, I ask that your Administration also consider sanctioning Pakistan unless they change course and make greater efforts to prevent the Taliban from using their border region to regroup between firefights.

Finally, I am baffled by recent statements by the Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalizad, that seem detached from reality and sanity. He has claimed the Taliban have made “substantial progress” on their counterterrorism commitments, despite being behind bombings targeting innocent civilians in Kabul, the ruthless mass executions of surrendering ANSF, and the brutal reprisals against our Afghans allies, and their families, who supported American forces. Further, the Taliban are taking their abuses against women to new grotesque levels with multiple reports of forced marriages and sex slavery. Ambassador Khalizad has provided you with poor counsel and his diplomatic strategy has failed spectacularly. Ambassador Khalizad has convinced multiple administrations that the Taliban is interested in governing and peace. It is clear that the Taliban is only interested in brutality and power. In light of this catastrophe, Ambassador Khalizad should resign immediately or be relieved from his position.

Mr. President, you have stated that it is the responsibility of the Afghan people to fightthis war. However, the War on Terrorism is a global war with a shared responsibility among the United States and like-minded Western democracies to fight the extremism that threatens our safety and values. Your intelligence officials have repeatedly briefed Congress that Al-Qaeda fully intends to regroup in the wake of Taliban advances and again strike the West. It will be far more costly in blood and treasure to allow Al-Qaeda to establish the same type of caliphate ISIS created in Iraq & Syria, threaten the homeland, and then once again try to defeat terrorism absent local bases and allies.

Mr. President, it is not too late to reverse course to prevent complete Taliban control, Al-Qaeda resurgence, and an unraveling of all our investments from the last twenty years. If you do not course correct now, Afghanistan could implode by the twentieth anniversary of September 11th. That will be a tragedy that will not only devastate the families and those who have sacrificed so much, but the collective conscience of our country. America’s national security and credibility are at stake. The world is watching.