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Taliban only option for fighting Islamic State in region: PM Imran Khan

Taliban only option for fighting Islamic State in region: PM Imran Khan
October 11, 2021 Web Desk

ISLAMABAD – The United States has to 'pull itself together' and deliver an aid package to Afghanistan or face the collapse of a country which would become a haven for Islamic State militants, said Prime Minister Imran Khan in an interview with Middle East Eye.

Khan said it was vital to Pakistan that Washington steps up to the challenge because his country, where tens of thousands of people have died in conflict linked to the US-led "war on terror", would once more pay a heavy price.

Imran Khan said the US had no other option but to do everything it could to support stable government in Afghanistan, because the Taliban was the only option for fighting Islamic State in the region – and to prevent the ascendency of hardline elements within the Taliban's own ranks.

"It’s a really critical time and the US has to pull itself together because people in the United States are in a state of shock,” he said. “They were imagining some sort of democracy, nation-building or liberated women, and suddenly they find the Taliban are back. There is so much anger and shock and surprise. Unless America takes the lead, we are worried that there will be chaos in Afghanistan and we will be most affected by that.”

PM Imran Khan said: “The world must engage with Afghanistan because if it pushes it away, within the Taliban movement there are hardliners, and it could easily go back to the Taliban of 2000 and that would be a disaster.”

Imran Khan said that the TTP consisted of 50 groups and that he was trying to reconcile those elements who were willing to talk.

“Now we are trying to talk to those 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 said, referring to the Northern Irish peace deal.

He said the Taliban government in Afghanistan had told Pakistan that the TTP would not be allowed to launch attacks on Pakistan from inside Afghan territory.

He accused Indian intelligence of supporting these attacks under the former government in Kabul. "No country paid such a heavy price as us. Eighty thousand Pakistanis died. The economy was devastated. We now have to talk to those we can reconcile and [persuade to] give up their arms and live as normal citizens.”

PM Imran Khan said that Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint between the two nuclear powers. "India cannot keep Kashmiris in an open prison forever," he said.

He said that India levels against Pakistan, but provides no proof. "The world knows what is being done with the Muslims in Kashmir and minorities in India. Why do the United Nations and other countries not discuss this issue," he questioned.

He said that the Kashmiris should be given the right to self-determination as per resolutions of the United Nations.

Khan condemned the continued use of drones by the US in Afghanistan. “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.”

With half the population already below the poverty line, and 75 percent of the national budget dependent on foreign aid, sanctioning the Taliban would soon lead to a humanitarian disaster, Khan said.

'If they leave Afghanistan like this, my worry is that Afghanistan could easily revert back to 1989 when the Soviets and US left and over 200,000 Afghans died in the chaos'

“If they leave Afghanistan like this, my worry is that Afghanistan could easily revert back to 1989 when the Soviets and US left and over 200,000 Afghans died in the chaos,” he said, referring to the civil war that followed the Soviet retreat from the country.

Imran Khan said he had warned Biden, John Kerry and Harry Reid – then all senators – in 2008 that they were creating a quagmire in Afghanistan for which there was no military solution. He said they did not listen.  “But unfortunately, they were led by their generals. And do you know what generals always say: give us more troops and more time.”

He said: “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. Three hundred thousand [Afghan army] troops surrendered without a fight, so clearly we did not tell them to surrender.”

Asked whether the Taliban had formed an inclusive government, Khan conceded it was not inclusive, but said the government was a transitional one. He said he was working with neighbouring states, notably Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, which have sizeable ethnic minorities inside Afghanistan, to encourage the Taliban to widen representation. “They need an inclusive government because Afghanistan is a diverse society.”

Khan said the Taliban should be given time: “They have made the right statements and have no other option. What else are we going to do if we sanction them? The best way is to incentivise them to walk the talk.

“But if you force them, I would imagine the nature of the people is such that they will push back and it would be counterproductive.”

He said there were clearly different currents within the movement and a lack of clear leadership on some issues.