President Biden under fire for ignoring Pakistan over Afghan exit
June 23, 2021 10:19 AM
US President Joe Biden and his administration came under severe attack from a senior American senator over the handling of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Senator Lindsey Graham has described President Biden’s reluctance to reach out to Prime Minister Imran Khan as ‘stunning”, and warned that ignoring Pakistan while withdrawing from Afghanistan could lead to a disaster.
In a number of tweets uploaded on Tuesday, the Republican senator said “Stunning to hear that President Biden hasn’t reached out to the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan regarding the US-Pakistan relationship and Afghanistan.”
Senator Graham, a supporter of US engagement with Kabul and Islamabad, reminded President Biden that his planned withdrawal from Afghanistan requires Pakistan’s cooperation.
“How do we expect our withdrawal from Afghanistan to be effective without coordinating with Pakistan? Clearly the Biden administration believes that our problems in Afghanistan are behind us,” he observed in another tweet.
Lindsey Graham warned the Biden administration’s “decision to withdraw all forces and not stay engaged with Pakistan is a major disaster in the making, even worse than the blunder in Iraq.”
President Biden’s reluctance to engage with Pakistani leaders was highlighted in an interview Prime Minister Imran Khan gave to an American TV channel earlier this week when the interviewer asked him if he had spoken to Mr Biden since he took office. “No, I have not,” Imran Khan said.
“Is there a reason for that?” the interviewer asked. “Whenever he has time, he can speak to me. But now, clearly, he has other priorities,” the prime minister said.
Pakistan’s key role in a post-withdrawal Afghanistan echoed at several recent hearings in the US Congress as well. At one of these hearings, lawmakers also referred to a recent statement by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, stating that Pakistan will now play a decisive role in determining Afghanistan’s future and the United States will only have a minor role now in the country after the troop pullout.
Congressman Ted Lieu, a California Democrat and a former US Air Force colonel, asked if Pakistan was so important for the success of the Afghan peace process, why was it not being treated accordingly.
“I am just curious about what happened earlier this year when 40 world leaders were invited to the climate summit, including the leaders of India and Bangladesh. And the leader of Pakistan was not invited, even though Pakistan is the fifth most climate vulnerable country. Even though 35 of the 40 countries invited have populations smaller than Pakistan’s,” he said.
“It seems to be disrespectful to not have invited the Pakistani leader to this climate summit when the leaders of India and Bangladesh were invited.”
The criticism came as the head of the United Nations Afghanistan aid operation expressed strong concerns Tuesday over military gains by the Taliban as US and coalition forces pull out of the country. "All of the major trends -- politics, security, the peace process, the economy, the humanitarian emergency, and Covid -- all of these trends are negative or stagnant," Deborah Lyons told the UN Security Council in a video conference.
"The Taliban's recent advances are even more significant and are a result of an intensified military campaign," said Lyons, who leads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
"For the Taliban to continue this intensive military campaign would be a tragic course of action," she said.
She said the insurgents have seized more that 50 of the country's 370 districts, mostly districts which surround provincial capitals. That, Lyons said, suggests the Taliban "are positioning themselves to try and take these capitals once foreign forces are fully withdrawn."