The Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani chided Pakistan and the country’s Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Central and South Asia 2021 conference in Tashkent for siding with Taliban in the ongoing civil unrest in the country (Pic: Courtesy tribune.com.pk)
It is not hard to imagine the outcome of the prickly encounter between the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Tashkent at the side-lines of the Central and South Asia 2021 conference in Tashkent. Sparks flew-thick-and fast between the two hot tempered leaders, revealing an unassailable gulf that cannot be exactly bridged when the two are going for the jugular in prime accusatory mode. The delegations fed from the corrosive chemistry between their two chieftains, that expectedly yielded a public spat, rancour and bad blood—all bad omens at a time when a civil-war, with seismic geopolitical implications is brewing in the heart of the Hindukush mountains.
Just before the bilateral meeting, both the leaders had a verbal spat openly on the stage of the Tashkent conference.
“Intelligence estimates indicate the influx of over 10,000 jihadi fighters from Pakistan and other places in the last month, as well as, support from their affiliates and the transnational terrorist organizations,” Ghani asserted. Ghani was unstoppable. He added: “Contrary to the repeated assurances by Prime Minister Khan and his generals that Pakistan does not find a Taliban take over in Afghanistan in Pakistan’s interest, and assured of its use of force will use its power to influence to make the Taliban negotiate seriously, networks and organizations supporting the Taliban are openly celebrating the destruction of assets and capabilities of the Afghan people and state.” A stunned Khan was forced to listen as Ghani raged on.
But a rattled Khan, did eventually hit-back, but far more mildly, telling Ghani that it was “unfair” to blame Pakistan for the situation in Afghanistan.
In the contrary the Pak PM pinned the blame for a rapidly capsizing Afghanistan on the US and Ghani. He stressed that it was in fact, Pakistan that used its “influence” to get the Taliban on the negotiation table.
“When there were 150,000 NATO troops in the country, that was the time to ask the Taliban to come to the table. Why were the Taliban going to compromise once the exit date was given…? Why would they listen to us when they are sensing victory" the Pak prime minister asked?
Without answering the specific allegation of supporting and funding Taliban, Khan tried to play the victim card.
"President Ghani let me just say that the country that will be most affected by turmoil in Afghanistan is Pakistan. We are petrified that there will be another influx of refugees and we do not have the capacity or the economic strength to bear it,” Khan said.
Not to be outdone, Ghani countered the subtext of the Khan’s assertion— stop whining and be ready to face the music as the Taliban are winning on the ground. The proud Afghan President stressed that the Taliban victory in Afghanistan was not a done deal. On the contrary, Afghan forces will face the Taliban and their supporters for as long as it takes, until they realize that a political settlement is the only way.
“If there is no dialogue, we will fight the Taliban. This is the last chance for peace,” Ghani told Pakistani PM.
For the past few months, Ghani and his administration has been accusing the Pakistan government and military establishment for having “deep” ties with the Taliban. Pakistani leaders have also acknowledged the presence of Taliban leaders and fighters among nearly three million Afghan refugees they have hosted for decades.
Afghan intelligence has “credible” information that the Pakistani army has been maintaining a weaponry depot for the Taliban in Chaman at the border across the Afghan town of Spin Boldak.
According to the Afghan analysts, this border crossing is open 24 hours for the support of the Taliban. There has been panic among the Taliban and Pakistan due to heavy losses being inflicted by the Afghan army. The Taliban is losing 150-200 fighters every day. This is a big shift because the Taliban are not used to operating in such large groups. In the past they focused more on guerrilla tactics. The Afghan army finds it easy now to inflict heavy casualties on the Taliban because they are out in the open, outside their usual safe-zones.
A 10-member team of key Afghan politicians is now in Doha to talk to the Taliban negotiating team. Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council for National Reconciliation said that this is the inclusive team and represent entire Afghanistan.