United States (US) Senator Chris Van Hollen said on Tuesday that former US President Donald Trump’s administration had enabled the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, reports Dawn.
The senator, a Maryland Democrat, argued at the first Senate hearing on the US withdrawal from Afghan soil that it was in Pakistan’s interest to “prevent chaos and civil war” in its neighbourhood.
Responding to allegations that President Joe Biden’s administration was responsible for the chaos and the Taliban takeover, Senator Van Hollen engaged in a dialogue with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was the main witness.
“Is it not the fact that the Trump administration asked the Pakistani government to release three top Taliban commanders as part of that process?” he asked.
“That’s correct,” Blinken responded.
Van Hollen asked Blinken that the former Afghan government was not included in the Doha talks and was pressurised to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners who were later involved in Kabul’s takeover, to which Blinken responded: “That’s correct.”
The US senator also raised the agreement reached that said US forces would leave by May and would not be attacked but there was no such restriction on attacking Afghan forces, to which Blinken said he was correct.
“And so, we pick a date. We say to the Taliban you can attack Afghan forces and then we say, now let’s negotiate the future of Afghanistan. Isn’t the way it was set up when you walked in?” the senator asked. “That’s essentially, yes,” Blinken replied.
“There is a saying in Afghanistan, partners have watches, we have the time. So, the Trump administration, with this negotiation, set it up perfectly for the Taliban. Greenlight to attack the Afghan forces. No discussions going forward,” Van Hollen said.
Blinken responded: “I believe that’s accurate.”
Senator Van Hollen reminded Secretary Blinken that Trump even criticised Biden for not withdrawing the forces by May, as agreed in the US-Taliban agreement.
He noted that the Biden administration now had both Pakistan and India on the table because the Afghan dispute could not be resolved without involving regional players.
“I think a number of those countries, at least Pakistan — like India, like the others — have an interest in preventing chaos and civil war in Afghanistan,” he added.
Then returning to Pakistan, he said: “Obviously, we asked them to release prisoners that they had locked up, Taliban prisoners. So, obviously, we have to keep an eye on the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), [I] get that, but let’s all work together to achieve the goal of a stable Afghanistan that protects the rights of its people.”
On the other hand, National Security Adviser (NSA) Moeed Yusuf on Wednesday said that the US should listen to Pakistan’s message as it reassesses its relationship with the country.
“If there has to be a reassessment, the reassessment has to conclude that what Pakistan was saying made sense. So now what Pakistan is saying we should give a fair hearing to,” he said.
On Monday, Antony Blinken said the US would be looking at its relationship with Pakistan in the coming weeks to formulate what role Washington would want it to play in the future of Afghanistan.