FM Qureshi tells Blinken “World should not repeat mistake of disengaging with Afghanistan”

F.P. Report

WASHINGTON: Pakistan has told the United States that the world should not repeat the mistake of disengaging with Afghanistan as it did after the Soviet withdrawal in the late 1980s.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi met with US Secretary of State Tony Blinken on the sidelines of the 76th UN General Assembly in New York and discussed the way forward in Afghanistan, stressing the importance of the countries to work together on the issue.

Antony Blinken said Thursday he believed the world was united on pressing the Taliban after speaking with Pakistan, China and Russia, key players with Afghanistan’s new rulers.

Blinken met Thursday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly with his counterpart from Pakistan, the chief ally of the Taliban regime that was toppled by US troops in 2001 but who again seized control of the whole Afghanistan after US hasty withdrawal, and held talks with ministers of the four other veto-wielding Security Council members including China and Russia.

“I think there is very strong unity of approach and unity of purpose,” Blinken told reporters. “The Taliban say that they seeks legitimacy, that they seek support, from the international community. The relationship that Taliban have with the international community is going to be defined by the actions they take.”

Blinken reiterated US priorities for the Taliban including allowing Afghans and foreigners to leave, respecting the rights of women, girls and minorities, and not letting Afghanistan be used again by extremists such as Al-Qaeda.

The State Department said Blinken highlighted “the importance of coordinating our diplomatic engagement” in talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Pakistan has called for engagement with the Taliban and the unfreezing of Afghan assets but Qureshi said earlier in the week that there was no rush to recognize a new Taliban government, a step opposed by Western nations.

Qureshi, opening his meeting with Blinken, said, “We have to find a way of collectively working to achieve our common objective, which is peace and stability.”

China and Russia have both moved to engage with the Taliban but have also stopped short of recognition and have longstanding concerns about extremism.

“A lot to focus on, starting with Afghanistan and the importance of our countries working together and going forward on Afghanistan,” Blinken said.

Blinken appreciated the work that Pakistan has done to facilitate the departure of American citizens who wish to leave Afghanistan as well as others.

According to State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, the two leaders discussed the way forward in Afghanistan.

Blinken reiterated the importance of coordinating our diplomatic engagement and facilitating the departure of those wishing to leave Afghanistan. The Secretary noted that the United States appreciates Pakistan’s support and assistance with both of these efforts, Price said.

Qureshi said, “I thought a time would come where we’d be talking beyond Afghanistan, but it seems Afghanistan is there, we can’t wish it away, and we have to find a way of collectively working to achieve our common objective, which is peace and stability,” Qureshi told reporters, stressing Pakistan commitment to an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan.

Qureshi also emphasised the importance of the international community holding the Taliban to their commitments and recognise its moral obligation to help the Afghan people with the growing humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country.

“The world should not repeat the mistake of disengaging with Afghanistan,” he stressed.

The Taliban swept through Afghanistan last month after President Joe Biden withdrew US troops, saying there was no point in extending America’s longest war beyond 20 years.