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US Defends Pakistan's 'Critical Role' in Afghanistan Despite Growing Criticism Over 'Taliban Ties'

© AP Photo / Mohammad SajjadA Pakistan army soldier stands guard in the Pakistani tribal area of Khyber near the Torkham border post between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
A Pakistan army soldier stands guard in the Pakistani tribal area of Khyber near the Torkham border post between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Wednesday, June 15, 2016.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.08.2021
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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan last week blasted the US for "really messing it up" in Afghanistan by trying to find a “military solution” to the conflict, as he reckoned that such a prospect had never existed in the first place. He also sought evidence to back claims that Pakistan was providing safe haven to the Taliban* insurgents.
The United States has lauded efforts of the Pakistani leadership in advancing the intra-Afghan talks, as the South Asian country faces growing criticism over its alleged backing of the Taliban amid the ongoing hostilities in Afghanistan.
"Pakistan has much to gain and will continue to have a critical role, be well positioned to have a role in supporting the outcome that not only the United States seeks, but that many of our international partners, many of the countries in the region also seek," State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said at a briefing, when asked to comment on alleged ties between the Taliban and Islamabad.
The US State Department official noted that Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf on 30 July met his American counterpart Jake Sullivan, where the security situation in Afghanistan figured prominently on the bilateral agenda.
“I met with Pakistan’s NSA today to consult on regional connectivity and security, and other areas of mutual cooperation. We discussed the urgent need for a reduction in violence in Afghanistan and a negotiat​ed political settlement to the conflict,” Sullivan said after the meeting.
The Biden administration’s backing of Islamabad over its role in Afghanistan comes against the backdrop of growing censure of Prime Minister Khan’s government by the administration of President Ashraf Ghani in neighbouring Kabul.
At a regional connectivity conference in Tashkent last month, President Ghani accused Pakistan of helping with the infiltration of more than 10,000 jihadi fighters into Afghanistan. The remarks were made in front of Prime Minister Khan, who was also present at the event.
Ghani also alleged that Pakistan was yet to sever ties with other terrorist groups in the region.
Afghan President Ghani said "networks and organisations supporting the Taliban are openly celebrating the destruction of the assets and capabilities of the Afghan people and State." 
The remarks came despite repeated assurances by Pakistan's PM and his generals that a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan in Islamabad’s interest, and that they will use their power and influence to make the Islamist movement negotiate seriously.
Afghanistan’s First Vice-President Amrullah Saleh has also repeatedly called out Islamabad’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for allegedly backing the Islamist terror proxies in the region.
​According to Indian officials, “the need for sustained pressure on Pakistan on terror financing and terror havens” was on the bilateral agenda during the visit of US State Secretary Antony Blinken to Delhi last month.
However, the Indian Foreign Ministry subsequently ducked questions about Delhi raising the issue of Pakistan’s alleged support of terrorists with Blinken during his meetings with India's Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.
On Sunday, Canada’s former envoy to Afghanistan Chris Alexander also blasted Pakistan over its “forever war” in Afghanistan, which prompted a diplomatic protest by Islamabad.
*The Taliban is a terrorist group banned in Russia.
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