As the Taliban forms government in Afghanistan, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said the best way forward for peace and stability in Afghanistan is to engage with the Taliban and “incentivize” them on issues such as women’s rights and inclusive government.
Speaking to CNN, in the first interview with an international news organization since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last month, Khan spoke about enduring what he perceived as a “terrible” relationship with the United States that has been disastrous for Pakistan and how he is now seeking a more pragmatic approach in dealing with Afghanistan’s new leaders.
“The Taliban hold all of Afghanistan and if they can sort of now work towards an inclusive government, get all the factions together, Afghanistan could have peace after 40 years. But if it goes wrong and which is what we are really worried about, it could go to chaos. The biggest humanitarian crisis, a huge refugee problem,” Khan was quoted as saying in the interview.
Khan claimed that the Taliban are looking for international aid to avoid a crisis, which could be used to push the group in “the right direction towards legitimacy.” However he warned that Afghanistan could not be controlled by outside forces.
“No puppet government in Afghanistan is supported by the people,” he said, adding “So rather than sitting here and thinking that we can control them, we should incentivize them. Because Afghanistan, this current government, clearly feels that without international aid and help, they will not be able to stop this crisis. So we should push them in the right direction.”
Even before the Taliban’s return to power, protracted conflict, poverty, back-to-back droughts, economic decline and the coronavirus pandemic had worsened an already dire situation in which 18 million Afghans — almost half of the population — were in need of aid, according to United Nations agencies.
To critics who say the Taliban will destabilize the country, Khan pointed to the withdrawal of the Soviets in 1989, which resulted in a “bloodbath.” Khan said he was expecting a similar bloodbath to happen after the US forces left, CNN reported.
“Our intelligence agencies told us that the Taliban would not be able to take over all of Afghanistan, and if they tried to take Afghanistan militarily, there would be a protracted civil war, which is what we were scared of because we are the ones who would suffer the most,” Khan was quoted as saying.
Now, he said, the world should “give them time” to form a legitimate government and make good on their promises.