Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that the Afghan Taliban had said they would not negotiate with Kabul until Ashraf Ghani was the president.

The premier was recalling his meeting with a Taliban delegation in Pakistan about four months ago while speaking to foreign journalists in Islamabad on Wednesday.

He said he persuaded the Taliban to negotiate with the Kabul regime for peace as there was no other solution to the Afghan conflict.

Prime Minister Imran admitted that a political settlement was looking difficult under the current circumstances. 

He said that the Taliban set a condition that “as long as Ashraf Ghani is there, we (Taliban) are not going to talk to the Afghan government.”

The prime minister said that the Afghan government was now trying to ensure that the US government intervenes on its behalf. 

“They [US] has been here for 20 years… what will they do now that they did not do for 20 years?” he asked. 

He said Pakistan had “made it very clear” that it does not want any American military bases on its soil after US forces exit Afghanistan.

On Pakistan-US relations, the prime minister told foreign journalists that Washington has chosen India as its strategic partner in the region, hence it was treating Pakistan differently. 

“The US thinks Pakistan should clean up the mess in Afghanistan that it [US] had left over the past 20 years,” he said. 

Washington has been pressing Pakistan to use its influence over the Taliban to broker an elusive peace deal as negotiations between the insurgents and Afghan government have stalled, and violence in Afghanistan has escalated sharply.

“Pakistan is just considered only to be useful in the context of somehow settling this mess which has been left behind after 20 years of trying to find a military solution when there was not one,” PM Imran said.

The United States will pull out its military by Aug 31, 20 years after toppling the Taliban government in 2001. But, as the United States leaves, the Taliban today controls more territory than at any point since then.

Prime Minister Imran said Islamabad was not taking sides in Afghanistan.

“I think that the Americans have decided that India is their strategic partner now, and I think that’s why there’s a different way of treating Pakistan now,” he said.


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