Prime Minister Imran Khan says he was surprised to see that no mention was made of Pakistan’s sacrifices as a US ally in the war on terror for more than two decades. “Instead, we were blamed for America’s loss,” he wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post.
“Since 2001, I have repeatedly warned that the Afghan war was unwinnable. Given their history, Afghans would never accept a protracted foreign military presence, and no outsider, including Pakistan, could change this reality,” wrote PM Khan.
PM Imran Khan lashed out at successive Pakistani governments, saying that they had sought to please the US instead of pointing out the flaws of a military-driven approach in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan’s military dictator Pervez Musharraf agreed to every American demand for military support after 9/11. This cost Pakistan, and the United States, dearly,” he stressed.
“Those the United States asked Pakistan to target included groups trained jointly by the CIA and our intelligence agency, the ISI, to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Back then, these Afghans were hailed as freedom fighters performing a sacred duty. President Ronald Reagan even entertained the mujahideen at the White House.”
“Once the Soviets were defeated, the United States abandoned Afghanistan and sanctioned my country, leaving behind over 4 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and bloody civil war in Afghanistan. From this security, vacuum emerged the Taliban, many born and educated in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan,” read the opinion piece.
“Fast forward to 9/11, when the United States needed us again — but this time against the very actors we had jointly supported to fight the foreign occupation. Musharraf offered Washington logistics and air bases, allowed a CIA footprint in Pakistan, and even turned a blind eye to American drones bombing Pakistanis on our soil. For the first time ever, our army swept into the semiautonomous tribal areas on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, which had earlier been used as the staging ground for the anti-Soviet jihad. The fiercely independent Pashtun tribes in these areas had deep ethnic ties with the Taliban and other Islamist militants,” wrote Khan.
The prime minister pointed out how, between 2005 and 2016, 16,000 terrorist attacks were conducted against Pakistan by over 50 militant groups, who saw the US and Pakistan as collaborators.
“We suffered more than 80,000 casualties and lost over $150 billion in the economy. The conflict drove 3.5 million of our citizens from their homes. The militants escaping from Pakistani counterterrorism efforts entered Afghanistan and were then supported and financed by Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies, launching even more attacks against us,” he wrote.
The premier lashed out at former president Asif Ali Zardari, referring to him as “undoubtedly the most corrupt man to have led my country”, accusing him of not worrying about the collateral damage caused by US drone strikes. He said former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was no different.
“Tragically, instead of facing this reality, the Afghan and Western governments created a convenient scapegoat by blaming Pakistan, wrongly accusing us of providing safe havens to the Taliban and allowing its free movement across our border. If it had been so, would the United States not have used some of the 450-plus drone strikes to target these supposed sanctuaries?”
“Surely Pakistan is not to blame for the fact that 300,000-plus well-trained and well-equipped Afghan security forces saw no reason to fight the lightly armed Taliban. The underlying problem was an Afghan government structure lacking legitimacy in the eyes of the average Afghan,” he wrote.
The prime minister said the “right thing” right now for the world to do would be to engage with the new Afghanistan government, adding that if assured of constant humanitarian aid, the Taliban will have a greater incentive to honour the global community’s demands.
“Providing such incentives will also give the outside world additional leverage to continue persuading the Taliban to honor its commitments,” he wrote.
“If we do this right, we could achieve what the Doha peace process aimed at all along: an Afghanistan that is no longer a threat to the world, where Afghans can finally dream of peace after four decades of conflict. The alternative — abandoning Afghanistan — has been tried before,” warned the prime minister.