‘What’s your plan to ensure Taliban don’t acquire nuclear weapons from Pak?’: US lawmakers to Biden

  • In a letter addressed to the President, as many as 68 lawmakers from the House of Representatives and the Senate, also asked the US President to “outline” his plan to “move America forward.”
US President Joe Biden on Tuesday reaffirmed his decision to stick to the August 31 deadline to withdraw the forces from Afghanistan. (REUTERS/Leah Millis)
US President Joe Biden on Tuesday reaffirmed his decision to stick to the August 31 deadline to withdraw the forces from Afghanistan. (REUTERS/Leah Millis)
Updated on Aug 26, 2021 11:56 PM IST
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Written by Sharangee Dutta | Edited by Avik Roy, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

As the August 31 deadline for the United States and its allies to pull out its troops nears, there remains mounting tension regarding the nature of rule that Islamist militants Taliban would impose on Afghanistan. Now, a group of US lawmakers has urged President Joe Biden to make sure that the insurgents do not destabilise Pakistan and acquire nuclear weapons.

In a letter addressed to the President, as many as 68 lawmakers from the House of Representatives and the Senate, asked Biden to answer critical questions on the downfall of Afghanistan and what his plans are going forward.

“Are you prepared to support regional allies militarily in the event that the Taliban militarise the Afghanistan border? What is your plan to help to ensure that the Taliban do not destabilise its nuclear neighbour Pakistan?” the group asked Biden in the letter.

The lawmakers further noted that over the past few weeks, the world became a spectacle of Taliban’s sweeping control over Afghanistan with surprising speed — which they hailed as the result of “unforced errors made by withdrawing completely the small remaining footprint of [US’] main military force.”

They also raised concerns over the unnecessary delay of the “evacuation of US personnel and its Afghan partners.”

Also Read | 'Stay as long as necessary': US lawmakers implore Biden to extend Afghan airlift deadline

The group in the letter highlighted that the effect of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years doesn’t only have consequences in the particular nation, or even the Middle East, but also carry strategic and geographical consequences that have already commenced to unravel and will continue for decades.

“Dealing with these consequences means that we must take action now to chart the course for American strategy, while we manage the immediate repercussions of this self-inflicted crisis in Afghanistan,” the letter noted, with the lawmakers asking Biden to “outline” his plan to “move America forward.”

They also detailed about the swift manner in which Afghanistan “metastasised” into Taliban rule accompanied by rekindled oppression to women and girls, and the restraint of civil society.

The lawmakers also pointed out that the insurgents’ comeback has triggered the displacement of innumerable Afghan nationals from their homes, who are then prevented by the Taliban by using force – and also a “power vacuum” that China seeks to fill by increasing its ties with the militants.

The group of lawmakers also asked Biden to lay out his plan on ensuring that al Qaeda does not “resurge and regain a foothold in Afghanistan.” “What ‘over the horizon’ operations are you prepared to use to counter this threat?” they asked, noting that the intelligence community has cautioned against al Qaeda and ISIS-K getting full liberty from the Taliban to use Afghanistan as a safe haven to train and equip for future terrorists.

Also Read | Biden defends Afghan pullout, says al Qaeda gone; Pentagon contradicts him

Biden was also asked if the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan means that the group now has de facto command and control over the Afghan security forces’ former personnel, equipment and infrastructure. “If so, does this mean that the Taliban possess an air force through this de facto control? What is your plan to disable any air forces that operate under orders from the Taliban?” the letter asked.

The lawmakers further asked the US President about his plan to “reclaim US military equipment” that has already fallen to the hands of Taliban, and how he plans to ensure that additional US and Afghan equipment do not end up with the militants.

The 68 lawmakers’ concerns come when less than a week is left for the US to withdraw its forces from Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport. Prior to the meeting among the G7 leaders late on Tuesday, speculations were doing rounds that Biden was mulling over extending the deadline and would decide on the final date soon. The Taliban, however, had already given an ultimatum by rejecting any possibility of the deadline extension, warning that there would be “consequences” otherwise.

Following these, the US President on Tuesday reaffirmed his decision to stick to the August 31 deadline.

Meanwhile, German envoy Markus Potzel announced on Wednesday that the Taliban have agreed to let Afghans leave even after the August 31 deadline. He said that he met Taliban’s deputy chief negotiator Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai and his team, and that they “assured” him about allowing Afghans with “legal documents” with the opportunity to travel on commercial flights after the deadline.

Pakistan has long been accused of fostering the Taliban in Afghanistan. A leader of Pakistan’s ruling Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, Neelam Irshad Sheikh, recently said on a television news debate that the militants have said that they will help Pakistan in “liberating Kashmir from India.”

Soon after regaining power in Afghanistan, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen had said that the group won’t allow anyone to use the country’s soil against any other nation. The remarks were made by Shaheen during an interview with Pakistan’s Hum News channel wherein he also said that India is welcome to complete its reconstruction and infrastructure projects in Afghanistan.

(With inputs from PTI)

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