WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Asad Majeed Khan, has disputed a claim by a US lawmaker that Pakistani military strategy led to the defeat of the Afghan Army at the hands of the Taliban, telling him that Islamabad and Washington have 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 in a letter addressed to Republican Congressman Mike Waltz, a former US Army officer who served in Afghanistan. The Pakistani envoy was responding to a letter Congressman Waltz wrote 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 penalizing Islamabad.
Noting that while events have overtaken some of the recommendations that Congressman Waltz had made, Ambassador Khan said it was “unfortunate that your letter mischaracterizes Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan.” “The contention that Pakistan’s ‘military strategy’ was somehow the decisive factor in the defeat of the 300,000-strong Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDS) – trained and equipped at the cost of at least $83 billion to the American taxpayer – does not square with the U.S. government’s own assessments about the issues of low morale, desertions, and ‘ghost soldiers’ that had long plagued the ANDSF,” he said.
“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, Ambassador 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 demoralized 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 has consistently made it clear that it no favourites in Afghanistan and would work with any government in Kabul that has the support of the Afghan people, pointing out 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,” the Pakistan envoy’s letter said, adding, “Unfortunately, neither side was in any mood to listen.”
“Even after the fall of the Ghani regime, we have continued to support the formation of a broad-based government in Kabul that represents Afghanistan’s ethnic diversity and preserves the impressive social and democratic gains it has made since 2001.“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 added.
“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 is 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, has been ferrying foreign diplomats, journalists, and international aid workers out of Afghanistan, and that Pakistan has also been working closely with U.S. 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.–APP