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Pakistan using Afghan Taliban as hedge against India: US commander

Imran Khan
Imran Khan

Pakistan is not using its full potential to influence the Taliban to come to the table for peace talks, believes a top American commander, who said Pakistan continues to use Afghan Taliban as a hedge against India.

Marine Corps Lt General Kenneth McKenzie said this while talking about the US’ frustration over Islamabad’s failure to take steps to weed out terrorist outfits from its soil.

“Pakistan is an essential element in long-term stability in Afghanistan,” McKenzie told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday during his confirmation hearing for the commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM).

Pakistan can play a crucial role in facilitating talks between the Taliban and government of Afghanistan, he said. “Pakistan does not appear to be using the full extent of its influence to encourage the Taliban to come to the table,” he said. “We continue to see the Taliban being utilised as a hedge against India rather than as part of a stable, reconciled Afghanistan,” he added.

McKenzie’s comments come just days after it was announced that president Donald Trump has written to Imran Khan seeking his help in the Afghan peace process.

“President Trump sent a letter to prime minister Khan, requesting Pakistan’s full support to the US-led Afghan peace process and Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s upcoming trip to the region,” a spokesperson of the National Security Council, White House, told PTI.

“In the letter, the president recognises that Pakistan has the ability to deny the Taliban sanctuary on its territory,” the spokesperson said. “The letter also makes it clear that Pakistan’s assistance with the Afghan peace process is fundamental to building an enduring US-Pakistan partnership,” the spokesperson said.