ISLAMABAD: The US special envoy for Afghanistan Thomas West has said Washington has no choice but to work with Islamabad on the “way ahead” in Kabul, adding that both military and civilian leaders in the South Asian nation shared many of the priorities of the United States.
Foreign powers have been reluctant to recognise the Taliban administration which took over Afghanistan in August while Western nations led by the United States had frozen billions of dollars worth of Afghan banking assets and cut off development funding that once formed the backbone of Afghanistan's economy.
The US has now announced it will free up half of the $7 billion in frozen Afghan central bank assets on US soil to help Afghans struggling with a humanitarian crisis and hold the rest to possibly satisfy terrorism-related lawsuits against the Taliban.
“I have productive, good and honest relationships I think with Pakistani leaders and they have a huge amount of expertise in their system on these matters [Afghanistan],” West said at a talk at the United States Institute of Peace. “I think we [United States] don’t have a choice but to work with Pakistan on the way ahead.”
Stephen J. Hadley asks @US4AfghanPeace: How much influence does Pakistan have now over the Afghan Taliban and how much alignment is there between the U.S. and Pakistan now with respect to our Afghanistan policy? His response #AfghanistanUSIP https://t.co/fcHfgDh0xo
— U.S. Institute of Peace (@USIP) February 15, 2022
He added: “I think within the leadership of Pakistan, both security and civilian establishment, that they share many of our priorities. Its always a question what kind of leverage they are willing to use in order to see those priorities advanced.”
The envoy said that during talks for a political settlement in Afghanistan before the Taliban takeover last August, the US had been “in very close touch with the leadership of Pakistan regarding steps we urged Pakistan to take to enhance the prospects of a negotiated settlement to this conflict.”
“I think had Pakistan taken some of those steps in a more meaningful and consistent way, I think we would be in a different place today, I genuinely do.”
Despite being allies in the war on terror, Pakistan and the US have had a complicated relationship, bound for decades by Washington’s dependence on Islamabad to supply its troops in Afghanistan but plagued by accusations that Pakistan was playing a “double game.” Pakistan denies this.
Last year, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington would be reevaluating its relationship with Pakistan to formulate what role it would want Islamabad to play in the future of Afghanistan after it was retaken by the Taliban last August. He said Pakistani had a “multiplicity of interests, some that are in conflict with ours.”