The United States will examine its relationship with Pakistan in the next weeks, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, to determine what role Washington wants to play in Afghanistan’s future.
Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the first public hearing on Afghanistan since the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government last month that Pakistan had a “multiplicity of interests, some of which are in contradiction with ours.”
“It is one that is involved hedging its bets constantly about the future of Afghanistan, it’s one that’s involved harboring members of the Taliban … It is one that’s also involved in different points cooperation with us on counterterrorism,” Blinken said.
Asked by lawmakers if it is time for Washington to reassess its relationship with Pakistan, Blinken said the administration would soon be doing that.
“This is one of the things we’re going to be looking at in the days, and weeks ahead – the role that Pakistan has played over the last 20 years but also the role we would want to see it play in the coming years and what it will take for it to do that,” he said.
The United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan culminated with a hastily organized airlift that left thousands of U.S.-allied Afghans behind and was punctuated by a suicide bombing outside Kabul’s airport that killed 13 U.S. troops and scores of Afghans.
In the aftermath of the Taliban’s win, the United States and Western countries are caught in a tough balancing act, hesitant to acknowledge the Islamist group while acknowledging the reality that they will have to interact with them to avert a humanitarian crisis.
Pakistan has long had relations with the Taliban and has been accused of backing the group while it fought the US-backed government in Kabul for 20 years – accusations Islamabad denies.
It is also regarded as one of the two countries having the most influence over the Taliban, along with Qatar, and a location where many senior Taliban commanders were suspected to have fled following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.