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US really messed it up in Afghanistan: PM Khan tells PBS

28 Jul, 2021
The Prime Minister, seen in this screen grab from YouTube, tells PBS that Pakistan cannot afford the fallout from a civil war in Afghanistan.
The Prime Minister, seen in this screen grab from YouTube, tells PBS that Pakistan cannot afford the fallout from a civil war in Afghanistan.

In his interview to Judy Woodrow of PBS on Tuesday night, Pakistan's Prime Minister said the United States "really messed it up" in Afghanistan, referring to US decision to invade Afghanistan following 9/11 and then their inability to find a political resolution with the Taliban.

He was responding to Woodrow's first question in her nearly 20-minute interview with the Prime Minister which began on the situation in Afghanistan.

He said the US was looking for a military solution in Afghanistan "when there never was one" and reminded audiences that he was one of the few leaders who said this all along.

He said he was called Taliban Khan for opposing a military solution but he held the view because he knew "the history of Afghanistan."

He questioned the objective of going into Afghanistan in the first place.

By the time the US realized a military solution was not an option, "unfortunately, the bargaining power of the Americans or the Nato forces had gone" he said, adding that western powers should have looked for a political solution much earlier when there were a heavy presence of Nato troops in Afghanistan.

"But once they had reduced the troops to barely 10,000, and when they gave an exit date, the Taliban thought they had won," he said.

"It is now very difficult to get them to compromise or force them into a political solution," he added.

Woodrow asked if the rise of the Taliban was a good outcome for Afghanistan?

He replied "the only good outcome would be a political settlement which is inclusive."

He said the worst thing would be a protected civil war in Afghanistan, which he said, from Pakistan's point of view was the worst case scenario.

He described two scenarios in such a situation: an influx of refugees and Pashtuns in Pakistan being drawn into it for ethnic reasons.

“That … is the last thing we want,” he said.

He repeated earlier claims that it was "extremely unfair" to allege Pakistan, militarily or financially, supported Taliban.

He said "Judy you should know a little bit of history" as he reminded her that Pakistan had no role whatsoever in 9/11.

He said Pakistan's government then decision to join the US war on terror, it devastated Pakistan, on a human level and financially.

But Woodrow persisted and said the ISI has been accused of providing help to Taliban and referred to a recent report saying 10,000 fighters had crossed into Pakistan.

Khan referred to that report as "absolute nonsense" asking why doesn't the Afghan government give evidence of that?

He said the camps which house Afghan refugees consist of Pashtuns which share the same ethnicity as Taliban. He asked "how can you call these sanctuaries?"

Woodrow asked what kind of relationship did the prime minister want from the US?

"Are you saying no cooperation with the US to fight terrorism?"

He replied: "When a country loses 70,000 of its people and is bankrupted by this war on terror, ... we don't have any capacity to have fighting on our border or in our country," he said repeating claims of how the war impacted Pakistan's political stability and economy.

"We do not want to be part of any conflict" he repeated. "We want to be partners in peace."

But Woodrow repeated her question: what do you want your relationship to be?

"The last relationship was transaction," he replied. "Pakistan was like a hired gun," repeating claims of the losses Pakistan incurred due to the war on terror.

"Now we want to help getting the Taliban to the dialogue table... we don't want a civil war in Afghanistan," he replied.