U.S. presses Pakistan as Afghan crisis spirals, leaked docs show

For example, in a discussion with a U.S. official, Pakistani Ambassador to the United States, Asad Majeed Khan, appeared to question reports that the Taliban are carrying out revenge attacks in Afghanistan – including allegations that the group executed their supposed enemies door-to-door – Door robberies.

Khan told the American official that after Pakistani “ground observations” the Afghan Taliban “did not seek retaliation, but actually went home to reassure Afghans that there would be no reprisals,” according to parts of a circulating memo below US diplomats. State Department official Ervin Massinga is described as having “seen conflicting reporting and hopes the Taliban will not seek revenge.”

In the meantime, the US embassy in Islamabad is burdened by the Afghan refugee crisis. Just a few days ago, US diplomats were trying to get answers from Washington to a number of questions about how to deal with the influx of people coming to Pakistan from neighboring Afghanistan.

The Pakistani embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to questions about the story submitted by email on Thursday. A State Department spokesman said: “We do not comment on leaked documents or on private diplomatic talks.”

The Biden government has been unusually reluctant to disclose its contacts and discussions with Pakistan. Although Pakistan’s actions are often at odds with the US, it is still a nation with ties to the Afghan Taliban, whose cooperation can help in the fight against terrorism. It is also a nuclear armed country that American officials would prefer not to lose completely to Chinese influence.

President Joe Biden has not yet spoken to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. Khan’s waiting for a call from the American leader was the stuff of Pakistani media gossip and memes.

Last month, when the Taliban were making rapid progress across Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken spoke directly to Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi only once, according to the Foreign Ministry. The readings of these diplomatic calls are usually so boring that they are useless to observers and the press, however this one from August 16 was unusually detailed.

Defense Secretary Lloyd had said about a week earlier Austin spoke to Pakistan’s general. Qamar Javed Bajwa. Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with his Pakistani counterpart Moeed Yusuf in late July – a meeting confirmed by a Sullivan tweet but no ad from the White House.

“It is clear that from the highest levels, the Biden government appears to have rather deep reservations about Pakistan, drawn from years of experience, and unwilling to give Pakistan a passport or praise for anything that Pakistan might like “Said Daniel Markey. a South Asia specialist who served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2003 to 2007.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, when the United States invaded Afghanistan to overthrow the then Taliban regime, US officials turned to Pakistan for help. Pakistan cooperated to some extent, especially in late 2001, but critics say it has played a double game since then.

Pakistani security forces had long promoted the Afghan Taliban and effectively supported their tough rule in Afghanistan in the 1990s. After the US invasion, Islamabad is said to have housed Taliban leaders and fighters on its soil, undermining US efforts to defeat the Islamist militia. Some analysts also suggest that Pakistani training and tactical aid helped the Taliban quickly come to power in Afghanistan over the past month.

Former officials say Pakistan sees the Afghan Taliban as a partner in any future battle against rival India, among other reasons for its support. Pakistan has also helped bring Afghan Taliban leaders to peace talks with the United States and the now overthrown Afghan government, although Islamabad has long officially rejected the idea of ​​actively supporting the Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan has been more helpful to the United States in fighting al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, but even that cooperation has been called into question. In 2011, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the United States found and killed the 9/11 leader and thought leader Osama bin Laden. The Pakistani government denied he was there.

However, now that the US has withdrawn troops, Pakistani assistance in tracking down and targeting terrorist targets in Afghanistan would be “useful if you can get it,” said a former senior US diplomat. In order to receive humanitarian aid to Afghanistan in the future, utility lines through Pakistan may need to be used, added the former diplomat.

The Afghan Taliban’s triumph in August is unlikely to be a long-term victory for Pakistan. The victory has encouraged groups like the Pakistani Taliban, who have long attempted to overthrow the Pakistani government through terrorist attacks and other means. The refugee crisis triggered by the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan will also put Pakistan, which has already hosted numerous displaced persons from the neighboring country, to the test.

The meeting between Massinga and Khan took place on August 26, the day about 170 Afghans and 13 US soldiers were killed in a bomb attack on Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, which the US used to evacuate vulnerable Afghans. Americans and others. US officials blamed ISIS-K, an offshoot of the terrorist organization Islamic State and a rival of the Afghan Taliban, for the attack, which also injured many people.

According to the description of the meeting, the Pakistani ambassador offered his condolences and made use of Pakistani medical facilities. Massinga took the moment to suggest that Pakistan could help on other fronts.

“In recognition of the tragedy, Massinga underscored the shared interest of Pakistan and the United States to target ISIS-K and al-Qaeda,” the description reads. In response, the Pakistani ambassador admitted that ISIS-K was also a common enemy of the Taliban.

Massinga expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s role in assisting evacuees from Afghanistan, according to the meeting notes. The parts viewed by POLITICO did not specify exactly what Pakistan was doing. At one point in the conversation, however, Khan said that “the Pakistani government would also welcome public recognition for the country’s help on the evacuation front.” (An August 20th thanksgiving from flashing to several countries for their help with the evacuations did not mention Pakistan.)

Aside from questioning reports of Taliban reprisals, Khan appeared to be defending the Afghan Taliban at other times.

The Pakistani ambassador “claimed the Taliban would not prevent third country nationals from visiting [the Kabul airport], however, acknowledged that there were some problems with Afghans passing checkpoints. ”Khan also highlighted Pakistan’s“ efforts to press the Taliban (but admitted that they were becoming increasingly difficult to contact), to form an inclusive government in Kabul “.

Lisa Curtis, who was a senior National Security Council official dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan during Donald Trump’s presidency, said Islamabad and Washington seem far apart on how Pakistan can help in Afghanistan.

“If someone argues that we need Pakistan’s support to try to moderate the Taliban’s behavior, I think they should remember that we haven’t got that support in 20 years in Afghanistan,” she said.

A separate message POLITICO received contained a telegram dated August 28th described as “an urgent request for guidance” on how to deal with “a rapidly increasing number of requests for assistance to Afghans in Pakistan” made for Resettlement in Pakistan was contemplated or claimed in the United States.

In many cases, the embassy forwarded inquiries to the United Nations Refugee Agency or partner NGOs. However, it has been difficult to handle requests “from offices within the State Department and the Inter-Agency – as well as from international organizations, sponsors and individual applicants, some of whom have appeared in person” to handle a myriad of specific cases, including assistance for arriving people on the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Embassy officials asked for help on a number of issues, such as how to help Afghans with an application for a special immigrant visa that is “in progress but not yet approved” and those who say they are eligible for this or any other visa program but no recommendations have been put on record.

Embassy officials indicated that it would only get more difficult.

“The pace of these inquiries creates an ad hoc system of responses that both tax the mission’s resources and increase potential confusion over leadership and responsibilities,” the cable reads. “In addition, we expect the number of these inquiries to increase dramatically as operations shift from evacuating Kabul by air to assisting people entering Pakistan overland.”

Two days later, on August 30, the embassy issued a personnel notice received from POLITICO announcing that it was establishing a “Task Force on Afghan-Pakistani Affairs”.

The aim of the unit is to “guide and coordinate the mission’s response to humanitarian, refugee, evacuation and related problems related to Afghanistan”.

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