Pakistan has played on both sides of the field in Afghanistan, contributing to the Taliban’s success, a senior US senator has reminded his colleagues, a day after Washington announced plans to withdraw all troops from the war-torn Asian country by September 11.
Chairman of Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Jack Reed, on the Senate floor on Thursday afternoon, said “a crucial factor contributing immensely to the Taliban’s success" has been the inability of the US to “eliminate the sanctuary the Taliban was granted in Pakistan.” Referring to a recent study, Reed said the Taliban sanctuary in Pakistan and state support from organisations like Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have been essential to their war effort and the US’ failure to undermine this safe haven may be Washington’s most significant mistake of the war.
“As the (congressionally mandated) Afghan Study Group noted, these sanctuaries are essential to the viability of the insurgency. Additionally, Pakistan’s ISI aided and abetted the Taliban while opportunistically cooperating with the United States,” Reed said.
A Brookings scholar, Reed said as per the assessment in 2018, Pakistan provided direct military and intelligence aid resulting in the deaths of US soldiers, Afghan security personnel and civilians, plus significant destabilisation of Afghanistan.
"This support of the Taliban runs counter to Pakistani cooperation with the United States, including as they have, allowing the use of airspace and other infrastructure for which the United States provided significant funding," he said.
"As the Afghan Study Group noted, Pakistan has played both sides of the field. These dynamics further play out against the complex environment in Pakistan which has implications for the national security of the United States, its allies and partners," he said, adding that Pakistan is simultaneously fragile and armed with nuclear weapons, making its vulnerability particularly dangerous.
"To add to this toxic mix, Pakistan is in a long-standing battle with its neighbour India which is also armed with nuclear weapons," Reed said.
The Senator said Pakistan and India have long been involved in a battle of power in South Asia.
"While bogged down politically and militarily in daily crises in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States, over multiple administrations, has been unable to focus the necessary attention on Pakistan. Therefore, these problems have only gotten worse," he said.
The senator said another factor behind the troop pullout from Afghanistan was shaped by the US and its coalition partners’ inability to develop an Afghan government that could gain the confidence of the people, especially beyond the cities, and provide basic services including security, education, health care, and justice.
During a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, President Biden said that keeping thousands of troops grounded and concentrated in just one country at a cost of billions each year made “little sense” to him.
He said all US troops would be withdrawn from the strife-torn country by September 11 to end America’s longest war that has cost trillions of dollars and the lives of over 2,400 American soldiers.
The US and the Taliban signed a landmark deal in Doha on February 29, 2020 to bring lasting peace in war-torn Afghanistan and allow US troops to return home from America’s longest war.
Under the US-Taliban pact signed in Doha, Qatar, the US agreed to withdraw all its soldiers from Afghanistan in 14 months.
Since the US-led invasion that ousted the Taliban after the September 11, 2001 attacks, America has spent more than $1 trillion in fighting and rebuilding in Afghanistan.
About 2,450 US soldiers have been killed and over 20,700 others have been injured in the war in Afghanistan.
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