taliban: US, Pakistani officials in strained talks over Afghanistan

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ISLAMABAD: US and Pakistani officials held difficult talks on Friday in Pakistanthe capital amid a worsening relationship between Washington and Islamabad as both seek a way forward in a Taliban-ruled government. Afghanistan.
The meeting between Washington’s undersecretary of state and Pakistani leaders came amid a series of outstanding issues. They include questions such as the level of future commitment to the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the ongoing evacuation of foreign nationals and Afghans who want to flee the country’s new Taliban rulers.
Another question on the agenda is who will provide the funds to prevent a total economic collapse and a looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban take over, billions of dollars in aid have been frozen. Almost 80% of the budget of the former Afghan government was financed by international donors.
Even as it refuses any unilateral formal recognition, Pakistan has been pushing for greater engagement with the men’s and Taliban cabinet that the insurgents established after they invaded Afghanistan in mid-August, in recent weeks from the United States and Withdrawal from the NATO of the country.
Pakistan has also urged Washington to hand over billions of dollars to the Taliban so they can pay the salaries of the many Afghan ministries and avoid an economic collapse. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees warned that such an accident could trigger mass migration.
Washington, which spent nearly two full years negotiating peace with the Taliban, still resents their dramatic departure from Afghanistan after 20 years of war. Images of desperate Afghan men, running alongside a departing American C-17, some falling to death from the wheel well, have come to depict the chaos of the American retreat.
Still, the United States is speaking quietly with some Taliban leaders and current Taliban cabinet ministers to ensure the evacuation of US citizens remaining in Afghanistan and others. At home, Republican senators are pushing for legislation sanctioning Afghanistan’s new rulers.
Legislation introduced late last month by 22 Republican senators also calls for sanctions on Pakistan for providing safe haven for the Taliban. That has sparked annoyance among Pakistani leaders, who have criticized Washington for what they say is Pakistan’s unfair fault for America’s losses in Afghanistan, especially after seeking and receiving Islamabad’s help in the lengthy talks of peace with the Taliban.
Pakistan has also opened the doors to tens of thousands of evacuees from Afghanistan, providing temporary shelter for both foreigners and Afghans fleeing the Taliban regime.
US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman met on Friday with Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, considered the main architect of Pakistan’s Afghan strategy. He also met with the Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
Little information has emerged from the meetings. A statement from the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said that “an inclusive and broad-based political structure that reflects the ethnic diversity of Afghan society is essential for the stability and progress of Afghanistan.”
That was a clear message to the Taliban: an acceptable Afghan government is one that includes representatives of all Afghan minorities.
The statement also had a message for the world, saying that “the current situation requires the positive participation of the international community, the urgent provision of humanitarian assistance, the freeing up of Afghan financial resources and measures to help build a sustainable economy to alleviate the sufferings of the Afghan people. ”
The international community has repeatedly expressed concern about the Taliban’s restrictions on access to education for girls and women, both in secondary school and in university. It has warned against a return to the harsh Taliban regime of the 1990s, when they first controlled Afghanistan and banned women from attending school, the workplace and public life.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan also featured prominently in a national security meeting on Friday attended by Pakistani military leaders and Prime Minister Imran Khan. A statement warned that instability in Afghanistan would have “serious implications for Pakistan.” Khan ordered a “special cell” to be established to coordinate humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and manage Pakistan’s border with its neighbor.
Sherman, who arrived on Thursday for a two-day visit, also met with Pakistan’s security adviser. Moeed yusuf late on Thursday, to discuss “events in Afghanistan and ways to promote cooperation through the bilateral relationship.”
Pakistan walks a fine line as it seeks to establish a relationship with the US in a changing region, where both Russia and China have increasing influence.
Khan, a strident opponent of the US-led so-called “war on terror,” has assured Pakistanis that Washington would not have access to Pakistani territory for so-called “over-the-horizon” attacks on Afghanistan.
The Pentagon has warned that Afghanistan could be a threat in a year or two, mainly from the Islamic State group, which is a rival and enemy of the Taliban. The Islamic State has stepped up attacks on the Taliban recently, including a bomb attack on Sunday at a Kabul mosque where the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid attended a memorial service for his mother. Five civilians were killed in that attack.
On Friday, a massive explosion targeting the Shiite Muslim minority in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz left at least 100 dead or injured, according to Taliban officials. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, but the Islamic State, a Sunni militant group, has brutally attacked the Shiite minority in Afghanistan in the past.
But Pakistan faces fierce opposition among its population of 220 million to any accommodation to Washington for the attacks on Afghanistan.
A Gallup Pakistan poll, released Thursday night, showed that 55% of Pakistanis polled favored an Islamic government like the one operated by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The survey was conducted between August 13 and September 5 and surveyed 2,170 men and women in cities and rural areas of Pakistan. It gave a margin of error between 2% and 3%.





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