US will reassess Pak ties
over Afghanistan’s future

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WASHINGTON: The United States will be looking at its relationship with Pakistan in the coming weeks, US State Secretary Antony Blinken said on Monday, to formulate what role Washington would want it play in the future of Afghanistan.
In the first public hearing in Congress about Afghanistan since last month’s collapse of the US-backed Afghan government, Blinken told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that Pakistan has a “multiplicity of interests some that are in conflict with ours.”
“It is one that is involved hedging its bets constantly about the future of Afghanistan, it’s one that’s involved harboring members of the Taliban … It is one that’s also involved in different points cooperation with us on counterterrorism,” Blinken said.
Asked by lawmakers if it is time for Washington to reassess its relationship with Pakistan, Blinken said the administration would soon be doing that.
“This is one of the things we’re 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 it to do that,” he said.
The United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan culminated with a hastily organized airlift that left thousands of US-allied Afghans behind and was punctuated by a suicide bombing outside Kabul’s airport that killed 13 US troops and scores of Afghans.
The United States and Western countries are in a difficult balancing act in the aftermath of the Taliban’s victory — reluctant to recognize the group while accepting the reality that they will have to engage with them to prevent a looming humanitarian crisis.
Pakistan has had deep ties with the Taliban and has been accused of supporting the group as it battled the US-backed government in Kabul for 20 years — charges denied by Islamabad.
It is also considered as one of the two countries, along with Qatar, with the most influence over the Taliban, and a place where many senior Taliban leaders were thought to have escaped to after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the State Department in Washington.

Testifying before Congress on the Taliban victory in Afghanistan, Blinken heard from lawmakers across party lines who pushed for a harder line on Pakistan.

Blinken told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that Pakistan has a “multiplicity of interests, [with] some that are in 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 [of] cooperation with us on counterterrorism,” Blinken said.

Afghan Taliban celebrating their victory in Kandahar city.

Asked by lawmakers if it is time for Washington to reassess its relationship with Pakistan, Blinken said the administration would soon be doing that.

“This is one of the things we’re 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 it to do that,” he said.

Blinken also called on Pakistan to deny legitimacy to the Afghan Taliban unless they meet 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 said.

He said the priorities included ensuring the Taliban let out people who want to leave Afghanistan and respect the rights of women, girls and minorities, as well as adhere to promises that the country not again become “a haven for outward-directed terror”.

“So Pakistan needs to line up with a broad majority of the international community in working toward those ends and in upholding those expectations,” Blinken said.

Joaquin Castro

Democratic Representative Joaquin Castro, one of several lawmakers to criticise Pakistan, called on the United States to consider removing its status as a major non-Nato ally, which gives Islamabad privileged access to US weaponry.

The United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan culminated with a hastily organised airlift that left thousands of US-allied Afghans behind and was punctuated by a suicide bombing outside Kabul’s airport that killed 13 US troops and more than 80 Afghans.

Democratic Representative Joaquin Castro

The United States and Western countries are in a difficult balancing act in the aftermath of the Taliban’s victory — reluctant to recognise the group while accepting the reality that they will have to engage with them to prevent a looming humanitarian crisis.

CIA’s role in Pak-US relations

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William Burns called on Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, according to a statement issued on Thursday by the military’s media affairs wing.

During the meeting, matters of mutual interest, the regional security situation and the current situation in Afghanistan were discussed, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.

“It was reiterated that Pakistan remains committed to cooperating with its international partners for peace in the region and ensuring a stable and prosperous future for Afghan people,” the statement said.

CIA Director William Burns discussing bilateral issue and other security issues with Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the GHQ. Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt Gen Faiz Hameed was also present at the meeting.

The visiting dignitary appreciated Pakistan’s role in the Afghan crisis, including successful evacuation operations, and efforts for regional stability. He also pledged to play a role for further improvement in diplomatic cooperation with Pakistan at all levels, it added.

This is not the first time the CIA chief has visited Pakistan.

According to the New York Times, Burns had earlier travelled to Pakistan for meetings with the COAS and ISI director to explore the possibility of counterterrorism cooperation between the two sides.

However, at the time government officials had suggested that he was firmly told that Pakistan would not host the spy agency’s drone bases on its territory.