Friday, October 22, 2021

We were unfairly scapegoated by U.S., says PM Imran Khan

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The United States has to “pull itself together” and deliver an aid package to Afghanistan or face the collapse of a country which would become a haven for Islamic State militants, Prime Minister Imran Khan said Monday in an exclusive interview to Middle East Eye.

Khan said it was vital to Pakistan that Washington steps up to the challenge because otherwise Pakistan, where tens of thousands of people have died in conflict linked to the US-led “war on terror”, would once more pay a heavy price.

PM Imran Khan lamented that Pakistan is being unfairly scapegoated and is given no acknowledgement. “Even today we are talked about in the US senate for the alleged nurseries and safe havens for terrorists instead of being given the credit we deserve.”

“It’s a really critical time and the US has to pull itself together because people in the United States are in a state of shock,” he told MEE in an interview in Islamabad.

Khan was speaking on the 20th anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan on 7 October 2001 to oust the ruling Taliban in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks by al-Qaeda in New York and Washington DC.

The US has no other option but to do everything it can to support a stable government in Afghanistan, because the Taliban was the only option for fighting Islamic State in the region, Khan said as a resolution of decades-long strife

Prime Minister Khan said a severe economic downturn that could throw many more millions into poverty and hunger, may generate a massive wave of refugees from Afghanistan, and indeed set Afghanistan back for generations. He said it was likely quoting the UN special representative to Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons who warned the same the last month.

With half the population already below the poverty line, and 75 percent of the national budget dependent on foreign aid, sanctioning the Taliban would soon lead to a humanitarian disaster, Khan said.

Khan told MEE he had warned Biden, John Kerry and Harry Reid – then all senators – in 2008 that they were creating a quagmire in Afghanistan for which there was no military solution. He said they did not listen.

“But unfortunately, they were led by their generals. And do you know what generals always say: give us more troops and more time,” Khan said adding that the response was similar two years later as well when General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, then Pakistan’s chief of army staff, delivered the same message to US President Barack Obama.

When asked why’d he said Afghans had “broken the shackles of slavery”, the next day of Kabul’s fall to Taliban, Khan replied:

“We have been so relieved because we expected a bloodbath but what happened was a peaceful transfer of power. But we also felt we were blamed for this. Three hundred thousand [Afghan army] troops surrendered without a fight, so clearly we did not tell them to surrender.”

However, Khan conceded Taliban’s is not an inclusive government but nevertheless a transitional one.

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