Maryland Democrat Chis Van Hollen, a key US senator who was born in Karachi, said it was the Trump administration that asked Pakistan to release the top three Taliban leaders for US-Taliban peace talks in Doha Qatar. He was speaking at a recent US Senate hearing on the fall of Kabul to the Taliban and the chaotic US withdrawal that followed the Afghan Army collapse.
|Senator Chris Van Hollen
Senator Chris Van Hollen was born in 1959 in Karachi where his father was serving as a foreign service officer at the US Embassy in Karachi, Pakistan. His father later served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (1969–1972) and US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives (1972–1976). His mother worked for the CIA as chief of the intelligence bureau for South Asia.
“Is it not the fact that the Trump administration asked the Pakistani government to release three top Taliban commanders as part of that (peace) process?” Senator Van Hollen asked. Targeting the Trump administration, Van Hollen continued, “And so, we pick a date. We say to the Taliban you can attack Afghan forces and then we say, now let’s negotiate the future of Afghanistan. Isn’t the way it was set up when you walked in?” “That’s essentially, yes," Blinken replied.
Referring to allegations of Pakistan's complicity in promoting chaos in Afghanistan, Senator Van Hollen said, “I think a number of those countries, at least Pakistan — like India, like the others — have an interest in preventing chaos and civil war in Afghanistan".
Here's the exchange between Van Hollen and Blinken at the Afghanistan hearing on Capitol Hill:
Van Hollen: “Is it not the fact that the Trump administration asked the Pakistani government to release three top Taliban commanders as part of that process?”
Blinken: “That’s correct".
Van Hollen: “And one of them is now number two in the Taliban government, Baradar, right?”
Blinken: “That’s correct.”
Van Hollen: “He is the person everybody saw in those photos in Kabul, right?”
Mr Blinken: “That’s correct.”
Van Hollen: “And there was another senior commander, and they began the discussions in Doha.”
Blinken: “That’s right.”
Van Hollen: “They (US negotiators) did not include the Afghan government, did they?”
Blinken: “That’s right, correct.”
Van Hollen: “And they in fact essentially ordered, pressured, the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners, right?”
Blinken: “That’s correct.”
Van Hollen: “Many of those fighters are involved in the attack on Kabul today, right?”
Van Hollen: “Now, let’s see what the negotiation was: the US will leave by a certain date in May this year, right?”
Van Hollen: “You can’t attack American forces, but you can attack the Afghan forces with impunity, right?”
Blinken: “That’s correct.”
Van Hollen: “And so, we pick a date. We say to the Taliban you can attack Taliban forces and then we say, now let’s negotiate the future of Afghanistan. Isn’t the way it was set up when you walked in?”
Blinken: “That’s essentially, yes.” .
Carter Malkasian, former advisor to US Joint Chiefs Chairman General Dunford, has also recently talked about how Afghan governments have scapegoated Pakistan for their own failures. He said: "Let’s take Pakistan, for example. Pakistan is a powerful factor here. But on the battlefield, if 200 Afghan police and army are confronted with 50 Taliban or less than that, and those government forces retreat, that doesn’t have a lot to do with Pakistan. That has to do with something else".
In another discussion, Malkasian explained the rapid advance of the Taliban and the collapse of the Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani. Here's what he said:
Over time, aware of the government’s vulnerable position, Afghan leaders turned to an outside source to galvanize the population: Pakistan. Razziq, President Hamid Karzai and later President Ashraf Ghani used Pakistan as an outside threat to unite Afghans behind them. They refused to characterize the Taliban as anything but a creation of Islamabad. Razziq relentlessly claimed to be fighting a foreign Pakistani invasion. Yet Pakistan could never fully out-inspire occupation.
Many westerners, including politicians, generals, analysts and journalists, are angry with Pakistan for the stinging US defeat in Afghanistan. They are trying to scapegoat Pakistan for the West's failed policies. Some want to punish Pakistan. However, many of them also recognize the importance of Pakistan in dealing with the aftermath of the Afghan fiasco. American analyst Michael Kugelman recently tweeted about America's use of Pakistani airspace (ALOCS) for "over-the-horizon" counter-terrorism ops in Afghanistan, underlining Pakistan's importance to the United States.
|US Analyst Michael Kugelman on American Reliance on Pakistan
A recent piece in Politico summed up US reliance on Pakistan as follows :
"The Biden administration has been unusually circumspect about revealing its contacts and discussions with Pakistan. While Pakistan’s actions often appear at odds with the United States, it nonetheless is a nation with links to the Afghan Taliban whose cooperation on fighting terrorism can be helpful. It’s also a nuclear-armed country American officials would prefer not to lose entirely to Chinese influence".
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