The United States will be looking at its relationship with Pakistan in the coming weeks, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday, to formulate what role Washington would want it play in the future of Afghanistan.
In the first public hearing in Congress about Afghanistan since last month’s collapse of the US-backed Afghan government, Blinken told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that Pakistan has a “multiplicity of interests some that are in conflict with ours.”
“It is one that is involved hedging its bets constantly about the future of Afghanistan, it’s one that’s involved harbouring 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 US-allied Afghans behind and was punctuated by a suicide bombing outside Kabul’s airport that killed 13 US troops and scores of Afghans.
The United States and Western countries are in a difficult balancing act in the aftermath of the Taliban’s victory – reluctant to recognize the Islamist group while accepting the reality that they will have to engage with them to prevent a looming humanitarian crisis.
Pakistan has had deep ties with the Taliban and has been accused of supporting the group as it battled the US-backed government in Kabul for 20 years – charges denied by Islamabad.
It is also considered as one of the two countries, along with Qatar, with the most influence over the Taliban, and a place where many senior Taliban leaders were thought to have escaped to after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.