Pakistan useful for US only to clean up Afghanistan ‘mess’: Khan

Pakistan PM accuses US of seeing his country as useful only in the context of the ‘mess’ it is leaving behind in Afghanistan.

Imran Khan
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan says Islamabad is not taking sides in Afghanistan [File: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has accused the United States of seeing his country as useful only in the context of the “mess” it is leaving behind in Afghanistan after 20 years of fighting.

Washington has been pressing Pakistan to use its influence over the Taliban to broker an elusive peace deal as negotiations between the fighters and the Afghan government have stalled, and violence in Afghanistan has escalated sharply.

“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,” Khan told foreign journalists at his home in Islamabad on Wednesday.

The US will pull out its military by August 31, 20 years after toppling the Taliban government in 2001. But as the US leaves, the Taliban today controls more territory than at any point since then.

Kabul and several Western governments say Pakistan’s support for the armed group allowed it to weather the war.

The charge of supporting the Taliban despite being a US ally has long been a sore point between Washington and Islamabad. Pakistan denies supporting the Taliban.

Khan said Islamabad was not taking sides in Afghanistan.

“I think that the Americans have decided that India is their strategic partner now, and I think that’s why there’s a different way of treating Pakistan now,” Khan said.

Pakistan and India are arch-rivals and have fought three wars. The two share frosty ties and currently have minimal diplomatic relations.

A political settlement in Afghanistan was looking difficult under current conditions, Khan added.

He said he tried to persuade Taliban leaders when they were visiting Pakistan to reach a settlement.

“The condition is that as long as Ashraf Ghani is there, we (Taliban) are not going to talk to the Afghan government,” Khan said, quoting the Taliban leaders as telling him.

Also on Wednesday, the Pakistani military in a statement said all stakeholders should play their part “positively for enduring peace” in Afghanistan, calling it a “collective responsibility”.

Misperceptions and scapegoating must be avoided to counter designs of spoilers, it quoted military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa as saying.

Peace talks between the Taliban, which views Ghani and his government as US puppets, and a team of Kabul-nominated Afghan negotiators started last September but have made no substantive progress.

Representatives of a number of countries, including the US, are currently in the Qatari capital of Doha talking to both sides in a last-ditch push for a ceasefire.

US forces have continued to use air raids to support Afghan forces against Taliban advances, but it remains unclear if such support will continue after August 31.

Khan said Pakistan had “made it very clear” that it does not want any American military bases in Pakistan after US forces exit Afghanistan.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies