Taking a jab at the US, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that Washington sees Pakistan as “useful” only for clearing the “mess” it has left behind in Afghanistan after 20 years of fighting and prefers India when it comes to forming a “strategic partnership”.
Afghanistan has seen an uptick in violence by the Taliban after US President Joe Biden’s announcement of the withdrawal of American and NATO troops by August 31.
“Pakistan is just considered only to be useful in the context of somehow settling this mess which has been left behind after 20 years of trying to find a military solution when there was not one,” Imran Khan told foreign journalists at his home in Islamabad on Wednesday.
Imran Khan said that since the US decided to have a “strategic partnership” with India, Washington was treating Pakistan differently, according to a journalist present at the meeting, reported news agency Press Trust of India.
Islamabad is unhappy that Joe Biden has not spoken to Imran Khan since he assumed the US Presidency in January.
Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf recently expressed disappointment over President Biden’s reluctance to contact Prime Minister Khan despite considering Islamabad as an important country in some critical issues like Afghanistan.
Mr Yousuf also said that Islamabad has other “options” if the American leader continues to ignore the country’s leadership.
The US State Department, however, had assured Islamabad that Washington recognises Pakistan’s vital role in restoring peace in Afghanistan and wants Islamabad to play that role.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke over the phone with Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa this week and discussed the current situation in Afghanistan.
After the call, the Pentagon said the US was having conversations with the Pakistani leadership about the need to shut down the safe havens for Taliban terrorists along the Afghan-Pakistan border that are providing a source of more insecurity and instability inside Afghanistan.
Afghanistan and the US have criticised Pakistan in the past for allowing Taliban terrorists to cross into Pakistan where they are provided safe havens and also receive medical treatment.
At the meeting with foreign journalists, Imran Khan said that a political solution to the Afghan problem was difficult as the Taliban was not ready to talk with the Kabul government as long as President Ashraf Ghani is there.
He said the Taliban told him during a visit that the Ghani government was allegedly a “puppet”.
“The condition is that as long as Ashraf Ghani is there, we (Taliban) are not going to talk to the Afghan government,” Imran Khan quoted the Taliban as saying.
Imran Khan has taken a strong stand on the hasty withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan, which has plunged the country into a chaotic situation.
Prime Minister Khan also reiterated that Pakistan wouldn’t provide bases to the US forces after the drawdown. Though it was unclear if the US formally asked for the facility.
Pakistan has said that it has used its influence over the Taliban to press the insurgents into talks with the US and the Afghan government to find a political solution to the crisis.
Imran Khan last month said that the US “really messed it up” in Afghanistan as he questioned the American motive for the 2001 invasion of the country in the first place and then their subsequent attempts of seeking a political solution with the Taliban from a position of weakness.