The international community needs to engage with Afghanistan to stop a humanitarian crisis and a security vacuum, Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf said.
“If the world is not engaged with Afghanistan, for the sake of the average Afghan, then what we are really saying is: ‘We don’t care about a governance collapse, we don’t care about a humanitarian crisis, and we don’t care about a security vacuum,'” he told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” on Wednesday.
“If that’s where we want to go, then we are repeating the mistakes of the 90s,” he added, referring to the 1990s when the ultraconservative militants ruled most of the country before U.S. forces toppled the regime in 2001.
Last month, the Taliban returned to power after the civilian government in Afghanistan collapsed as the United States withdrew its forces from there.
Afghans line up outside a bank to take out their money after Taliban takeover in Kabul, Afghanistan September 1, 2021.
Stringer | Reuters
The Taliban has a history of imposing restrictions on women, brutally oppressing minority groups, banning music and television, and carrying out public executions.
Most of the world did not recognize the Taliban as a legitimate government when they held power from 1996 to 2001, and limited their diplomatic ties with Afghanistan during that time. Pakistan was one of the few countries that recognized the Taliban’s rule then.
Influencing an Afghan government
Pakistan is not telling the world if it should or should not support the Taliban, Yusuf said.
Instead, Pakistan hopes that the international community would engage with Afghanistan when a new government is formed and discuss how to ensure an inclusive and moderate government, respect for human rights, and prevent terrorism from being carried out on Afghan soil.
“This is what the world is saying, this is what the U.S. is saying, so if that’s true, how are we going to get there without engaging the ground reality?” Yusuf said.
To be clear, the Taliban are the biggest stakeholders in Afghanistan now — so, any government formed would have their strong backing.
Pakistan has long been accused of covertly aiding the Taliban during their insurgency in Afghanistan in the last 20 years, while also being an U.S. ally — a charge that Pakistan denies and Yusuf on called “preposterous.”
Media reports say Pakistan is also growing more worried over potential security threats spilling over from Afghanistan.
Yusuf warned that if there is a security vacuum in Afghanistan, it could be filled by “undesirable elements,” and that it would affect the entire world. There would also be a refugee crisis, he added.
“Afghans are not commodities. They are human beings,” Yusuf said. “Millions are refugees already. Rather than we talking about another refugee crisis, another security crisis, let’s ensure we prevent them.”
Most nations are waiting to see what kind of government the Taliban will form.
Countries like China, Russia and India have already held diplomatic talks with the group.
The militant group has sought to distance itself from its past brutalities as global recognition might give them access to international aid that Afghanistan desperately needs. Since returning to power, the Taliban have promised rights to women and the press, as well as amnesty for government officials allied with the U.S. government. But many remain skeptical about the Taliban’s new assurances.