Pakistani Leader Imran Khan Says Taliban Can Be America’s Partner for Peace

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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan

In a candid and wide-ranging interview, Newsweek Senior Foreign Policy Writer Tom O’Connor conversed with Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan, a nation that straddles Afghanistan and China each geographically and strategically. Khan mentioned his objectives and fears for his nation and the area, and defined why he believes America should stay engaged in Afghanistan.

This dialog, performed through electronic mail, gives a uncommon glimpse into one of many world’s most troubled areas by the eyes of the chief of considered one of its most essential and influential nations.

Khan rose to fame as a cricket star who led Pakistan’s nationwide staff to its first World Cup victory in 1992. After his sporting profession, he started philanthropic work elevating funds for medical amenities and analysis, and established the populist Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice) in 1996. Through this occasion, he capitalized on common dissatisfaction over corruption, non secular discrimination and financial stagnation over the course of the subsequent twenty years to rise to the forefront of nationwide politics, securing positions in parliament and rising to prime minister in 2018.

For Americans, the main concern within the area is that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August might empower militant teams looking for to lash out overseas. Khan says he shares these anxieties. But his biggest fear does not stem from the Taliban, with which Islamabad has fostered shut ties. Rather, it is a slew of different outlawed organizations whose goals are extra instantly targeted on wreaking havoc within the area.

When it involves China, the Pakistani chief rejects President Joe Biden‘s arduous line as “unnecessary.” Khan sees not a rival however a associate, each for his nation and probably for the U.S. as properly. And at a time when the U.S. is more and more embracing Pakistan’s prime rival, India, he emphasizes that Pakistan stays a prepared and keen companion in counterterrorism and different endeavors.

Cooperation between the U.S. and all main powers within the area is the one approach to keep away from disaster, Khan says.

This transcript has been flippantly edited for readability.

US troops at Kabul airport Afghanistan Taliban
U.S. troops sit on a wall as Afghans collect on a roadside close to the army a part of the airport in Kabul on August 20, 2021, hoping to flee from the nation after the Taliban’s army takeover of Afghanistan.
WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP through Getty Images

Newsweek: What do you’re feeling would be the rapid affect for each Pakistan and the area on account of the U.S. army withdrawal from Afghanistan?

Khan: Following the U.S. withdrawal, Afghanistan faces a tough transition from the previous 20 years of a US-NATO supported governance construction. The Taliban seem to have gained management over your complete nation, for the primary time in 40 years. There is, due to this fact, a hope that safety may be established all through Afghanistan. A peaceable Afghanistan can be useful for Pakistan, opening up prospects for commerce and improvement initiatives.

However, Afghanistan faces a humanitarian disaster as a result of Covid pandemic, battle, and the failures of the earlier governments. This have to be addressed as a precedence. Also, we have to work with the authorities in Kabul to neutralize terrorists’ teams current in Afghanistan, significantly the TTP [Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the country’s largest armed opposition group], which has been accountable for hundreds of terrorist assaults towards Pakistan.

Do you suppose U.S. credibility and affect in Asia can be affected by the transfer? Are nations seeking to different safety companions corresponding to China, or would possibly nations search to cling to a U.S. presence, given the chaos that resulted amid the withdrawal?

For its half, the United States has divested a legal responsibility—its expensive army intervention—which, because the U.S. President has himself admitted, was not a strategic precedence for the United States. Both Pakistan and the United States want to forestall terrorism emanating from Afghanistan. To this finish, we must always cooperate to assist in stabilizing Afghanistan by addressing the humanitarian disaster in that nation and supporting its financial restoration. Of course, there could also be an instantaneous unfavourable affect within the U.S. as a result of chaotic nature of its evacuation from Kabul. The U.S. has withdrawn voluntarily from Afghanistan. Therefore, I do not suppose that the U.S. withdrawal will erode U.S. credibility globally in the long run.

As for China, if China gives financial help to Afghanistan, it is pure that the Afghans will settle for it. The Taliban have welcomed the prospects of being integrated within the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and establishing shut relations with China.

However, the U.S. can also play an essential and optimistic function in Afghanistan by offering humanitarian help, contributing to Afghanistan’s restoration and reconstruction, and cooperating in containing terrorism from Afghanistan. During the Doha peace course of, the U.S. established a working relationship with the Taliban. There was direct cooperation between the U.S. and the Taliban through the evacuation course of. I consider that the U.S. can work with a brand new authorities in Afghanistan to advertise widespread pursuits and regional stability.

Taliban Spokesman Holds News Conference
The Taliban on Tuesday introduced a caretaker Cabinet stacked with veterans of their harsh rule within the late Nineties and subsequent 20-year battle towards the U.S.-led coalition and its Afghan authorities allies. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid speaks throughout a press convention in Kabul, Afghanistan Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021.
Muhammad Farooq/AP Photo

Does Pakistan intend to acknowledge the brand new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan because it did through the earlier Taliban takeover, and what sort of developments would you wish to see in Afghanistan earlier than establishing such formal diplomatic ties?

The Taliban have established an “acting government” and can little question announce a extra everlasting governance construction later. Pakistan is obliged to interact with the de-facto authorities in Afghanistan to forestall an financial and humanitarian collapse on this neighboring nation and the resurgence of terrorism.

Once a authorities in Kabul establishes management over your complete nation, it could legally qualify for recognition. However, Pakistan would like to succeed in a call relating to recognition of the brand new authorities along with different neighbors of Afghanistan.

Among essentially the most urgent issues for the worldwide neighborhood proper now’s the potential for militant and separatist teams to benefit from the unrest in Afghanistan to plot assaults towards different nations. One instance has been assaults towards Chinese residents in Pakistan. Does Pakistan share these issues, and the way do you intend to deal with them?

There is certainly a plethora of terrorist teams which, benefiting from the battle in Afghanistan, situated themselves in that nation. Pakistan is extraordinarily involved about the specter of terrorism from Afghanistan, significantly from the TTP, which has performed hundreds of assaults towards Pakistan from the territory of Afghanistan with the sponsorship and help of sure hostile intelligence companies.

The TTP has additionally been accountable for most of its assaults on Chinese residents working in Pakistan, maybe with the help of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). Pakistan will work with the authorities in Afghanistan to halt TTP and different terrorism from Afghanistan.

While the U.S. is withdrawing from Afghanistan, it has targeted extra intently on protection ties with different regional nations, particularly India. Does this concern Pakistan, given the tensions that exist in Kashmir and India’s membership within the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue?

Pakistan wishes to advertise a complete, not selective, method to neutralizing terrorists’ threats from Afghanistan. We will cooperate with the worldwide neighborhood, together with the U.S., on this effort.

We perceive that the U.S. military help to India is designed to comprise China, together with by the so-called Quad. Pakistan has its personal views on the credibility of this technique. In our view, India won’t ever confront China, particularly to not serve U.S. strategic goals. India’s function in arming itself so massively is to ascertain its hegemony in South Asia and specifically to threaten and coerce Pakistan. Seventy % of all Indian army capabilities are deployed towards Pakistan, not China. Therefore, Pakistan has official issues concerning the provision of essentially the most superior weapons and expertise to India. Apart from growing the chance of a battle, an arms race in South Asia will divert each India and Pakistan from investing in socio-economic improvement and the welfare of their individuals.

Imran Khan Xi Jinping China Pakistan
“The current U.S.-China rivalry is unnecessary,” says Prime Minister Imran Khan. China’s President Xi Jinping, proper, shakes palms with Pakistani chief Khan earlier than a gathering on the Great Hall of the People on April 28, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Madoka Ikegami-Pool/Getty Images

Pakistan has constructed a detailed strategic partnership with China. Is there concern that Pakistan may very well be caught up within the broader U.S.-China rivalry?

Pakistan’s relationship with China is 70 years previous. It covers financial, technological, army and different sectors. Throughout this time, Pakistan has concurrently maintained a detailed relationship with the United States as properly. Indeed, it was Pakistan which first introduced the U.S. and China collectively in 1971. We see no motive for our strategic partnership with China to erode our potential to proceed a cooperative relationship with the United States. We consider that the present U.S.-China rivalry is pointless and opposite to the pursuits of each these world powers. Cooperation between them can be useful to each and is important to deal with the myriad world issues we face—the COVID pandemic, the financial disaster within the creating world and the existential menace of local weather change. We hope that each Beijing and Washington will attain the identical conclusion within the close to future.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization Council of Heads of State met on September 17. What message did you’ve for them because it pertains to the function of Pakistan and the SCO states in addressing Afghanistan and different regional points?

We connect significance to the SCO as a regional group grouping the nations within the Asian heartland. At the SCO Summit, I introduced Pakistan’s viewpoint concerning the state of affairs and introduced the doable approach out to deal with the challenges posed to the area as a result of present state of affairs in Afghanistan.

If India adopts a optimistic place in relations with Pakistan, the SCO might function a helpful platform to advertise stability and prosperity throughout this huge space of the Asian Continent.

Joe Biden
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the top of the warfare in Afghanistan within the State Dining Room on the White House on August 31, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

There have been issues over the tempo of progress in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor initiatives. How has Pakistan’s financial alignment with China benefited the nation, and do you count on different nations to observe Pakistan’s instance, or would possibly President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better World” show a problem to Belt and Road Initiative initiatives?

China has already invested round 25 billion {dollars} underneath the umbrella of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Additional initiatives value 20 billion are underneath implementation. Projects value an extra 25 billion {dollars} are within the pipeline. The COVID-19 pandemic could have slowed the implementation of some initiatives. However, the CPEC’s goals are being achieved on schedule, and their implementation can be accelerated sooner or later.

The United States and G7 initiative—”Build Back Better World”—has been welcomed by Pakistan. We don’t see this as being in competitors with China’s “Belt and Road Initiative.” It is an initiative which might contribute to constructing the infrastructure and different initiatives that are so important to allow creating nations to realize their improvement goals and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Supporters of the pro-Taliban occasion shout anti-US slogans at a protest in Quetta on May 2, 2011, after the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
Banaras Khan / AFP-Getty Images

This 12 months marked the tenth anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s killing on Pakistani soil, and the world simply marked the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. How would you consider the successes and failures of the United States’ “War on Terror” over the course of the previous twenty years?

Al-Qaeda, the group accountable for 9/11, has been decimated in Afghanistan, largely resulting from Pakistan-U.S. counter terrorism cooperation over the previous 20 years.

However, the basis causes of terrorism—the underlying conflicts and disputes, and financial and social injustice—haven’t been addressed. As a end result, the ideology and narrative of terrorist teams have proliferated throughout a number of areas of the world, together with Africa, and new terrorist organizations have emerged.

In addition, anti-Muslim extremist actions and terrorist teams have emerged in a number of components of the world. We see the strongest manifestation of such Islamophobia in India’s extremist Hindutva ideology, which has unleashed state-sponsored terrorism towards the Muslims of occupied Jammu and Kashmir and the 200 million Indian Muslim “minority.”

The world wants a brand new and complete world counterterrorism technique to deal with these new manifestations of terrorism.

Longer time period, what do you suppose the affect of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan can be on the area? If you look out, say, 5 years from now, what do you suppose essentially the most profound distinction can be—and what wild card improvement would possibly change that outlook?
Four a long time of warfare and battle has had a devastating affect on Afghanistan’s financial system, society, and polity. There is a ray of hope right this moment to finish the “long war” and produce peace, stability and improvement to Afghanistan and the broader area.

The very last thing Pakistan needs is extra battle and turbulence in Afghanistan.
After 20 years of army intervention in Afghanistan, the worldwide neighborhood can’t exonerate itself from its obligations in direction of the individuals of Afghanistan. It should keep engaged with Afghanistan.

It is our hope that Afghanistan can be stabilized, by humanitarian assist, financial help, and connectivity and infrastructure initiatives, and that the U.S., China and Russia will all contribute to pacifying and reconstructing Afghanistan.

On the opposite hand, if rivalry persists inside Afghanistan, and between regional states and world powers, it might result in a brand new spherical of violence and battle in Afghanistan. This would create new stream of refugees, escalate the specter of terrorism from Afghanistan, and destabilize your complete area.

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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, in an Exclusive Newsweek interview.

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