US Senator Chris Van Hollen has blamed the Trump administration for the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, saying Pakistan had only acted on the Trump administration’s request when it released three top Taliban commanders to fast track the Afghan peace process. Pakistan not responsible for Taliban takeover, says US senator.
At the hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, the Karachi-born Democratic senator from Maryland Van Hollen said that it was in Pakistan’s interest to “prevent chaos and civil war” in its neighbourhood.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing focused on the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, where some Republican lawmakers blamed the current administration under US President Joe Biden for the chaos and the Taliban’s swift rise to power after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan last month.
Some Republicans and Democrats on the committee also accused Pakistan of allegedly supporting the Afghan Taliban during the 20-year war.
Van Hollen said, “Obviously, we asked them to release prisoners that they had locked up, Taliban prisoners. So, obviously, we have to keep an eye on the ISI, [I] get that, but let’s all work together to achieve the goal of a stable Afghanistan that protects the rights of its people.”
Calling out some of the lawmakers’ hostility towards both Pakistan, Van Hollen said earlier: “The level of hypocrisy in this Congress is staggering.”
Van Hollen also initiated a dialogue with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to respond to the allegations, who was giving testimony to the committee as its main witness.
Van Hollen asked, “Is it not the fact that the Trump administration asked the Pakistani government to release three top Taliban commanders as part of that process?”
Van Hollen followed up with a number of other questions, asking about Abdul Ghani Baradar’s release, the exclusion of the former Afghan government in the Doha Talks, and the release of some 5,000 Taliban prisoners under Washington’s who were later involved in Kabul’s takeover. Blinken responded to all these questions in the affirmative.
The US senator also mentioned that the agreement protected the US forces from Taliban attacks but not the Afghan Armed forces.
“And so, we pick a date. We say to the Taliban you can attack Afghan forces and then we say, now let’s negotiate the future of Afghanistan. Isn’t the way it was set up when you walked in?” the senator asked Blinken to which to secretary agreed.
There is a saying in Afghanistan, partners have watches, we have the time. So, the Trump administration, with this negotiation, set it up perfectly for the Taliban. Greenlight to attack the Afghan forces. No discussions going forward,” Van Hollen said.
Senator Van Hollen also reminded Secretary Blinken that former US President Donald Trump had criticised President Biden for not withdrawing the forces by May, according to the US-Taliban deal.
The committee’s chairman Senator Bob Menendez said the international community will have to deal with the Taliban government.
“But let’s not kid ourselves. There’s no such thing as a reformed Taliban,” said Menendez.
He said that the US should “reimpose sanctions that were waived during the negotiations and consider new measures to impose higher costs on the group and its leaders”. However, he also appealed for allowing life-saving humanitarian assistance to reach the most vulnerable.