Pakistan to US: Abandoning Afghanistan risks humanitarian crisis

Pakistan repeats call for the world not to ‘abandon’ Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover of that country.

Afghans walk through a security barrier as they enter Pakistan through a common border crossing point in Chaman, Pakistan [File: AP Photo]

Pakistan has repeated its call for the world not to “abandon” Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover of that country, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets his Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

The meeting in New York on Thursday was the highest level face-to-face meeting between the Biden administration and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government since the US president took office earlier this year.

In brief remarks to the news media ahead of the meeting, Blinken said the talks would focus on “Afghanistan and the importance of our countries working together and going forward on Afghanistan”.

The US Secretary of State also said he appreciated Pakistan’s aid in facilitating the departure of US and other citizens from Afghanistan following the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul in mid-August.

Pakistani authorities say they have so far facilitated evacuations for more than 13,000 people from Afghanistan, mostly foreign citizens or personnel associated with international organisations.

A Pakistani foreign ministry statement on the meeting, released early on Friday, said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had spoken to Blinken about “a new political reality” in Afghanistan since the Taliban assumed control.

“While the Taliban should be held to their commitments, the international community has a moral obligation to help the Afghan people deal with the growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan,” the statement said.

“[Qureshi] hoped the world would not repeat the mistake of disengaging with Afghanistan.”

That message has been consistent with the Pakistani government’s position on Afghanistan in recent weeks, calling for immediate international engagement and aid in order to stave off a potential humanitarian crisis.

With the Taliban is still getting governance and infrastructure up and running again, and as poverty, hunger and economic paralysis spiral, analysts say the possibility of a collapse of Afghan government structures is possible without international help.

International donors pledged more than $1.1bn at a conference on Afghanistan last week to address those concerns but the Taliban has also called for an estimated $10bn in Afghan central bank assets held in foreign countries to be released so that they can be used to address these issues.

That call has been supported by several other countries, including Pakistan and Uzbekistan.

On Thursday, the Pakistani foreign minister also reiterated Islamabad’s call for “an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan”.

Earlier this month, the Taliban announced the formation of an interim government headed by interim Prime Minister Mohammad Hasan Akhund that included several hardline commanders, with any women or ethnic minorities in positions of power.

However on Tuesday, Taliban expanded that cabinet to include a number of new deputy ministers, some of whom belong to ethnic minorities. Women remain unrepresented in the Taliban’s ruling structure.

On Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said the move to expand the cabinet was a “positive” development.

“We have taken note of the expansion in the interim cabinet with representation of different ethnic and political groups,” said Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Asim Iftikhar at a weekly news briefing in the capital, Islamabad.

“This is a positive direction, and we hope they continue to take steps leading to lasting stability in the country.”

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.

Source: Al Jazeera