Pakistan says US Afghan troop withdrawal is ‘logical conclusion’

Pakistan says the United States’ decision to remain committed to a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite the Afghan Taliban’s lightning takeover of the country, is a “logical conclusion” to the Afghan conflict, as thousands of Afghans flooded into Pakistan at a southern border crossing.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan met the country’s top military and civilian leadership at a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Monday.

The NSC, which includes Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and intelligence head Lieutenant-General Faiz Hameed, said Pakistan called on all Afghan parties to respect human rights and ensure that Afghan soil was not used against other countries.

“The NSC reiterated Pakistan’s stance that the conflict in Afghanistan never had a military solution,” said a statement issued after the meeting.

“The ideal time to end the conflict through negotiations might have been when the US/NATO troops were at maximum military strength in Afghanistan. Continuation of foreign military presence for a longer duration now would not have yielded a different outcome.”

The statement said US President Joe Biden’s decision to continue withdrawing troops was “a logical conclusion to this conflict”.

“It is now time for the international community to work together to ensure an inclusive political settlement for long term peace, security and development of Afghanistan [and] the region.”

Earlier on Monday, making a speech at the launch of a Pakistani educational curriculum project, PM Khan briefly alluded to the Afghan conflict while speaking about the need to break the chains of cultural imperialism.

“Right now in Afghanistan they have broken the chains of slavery but to break the chains of mental slavery, those do not break,” he said.

Flights suspended

Pakistan has said its embassies and consulates will remain open to process visas, documentation and transport for the repatriation of Pakistanis, diplomats, journalists and staff of international organisations who want to leave Afghanistan.

On Monday, however, Pakistan’s state airline said it had been forced to suspend all flights between Kabul and Islamabad as a result of the “uncertain security situation” at the Kabul International Airport.

“The decision was made due to the lack of complete security and airport staff at Kabul airport, and the presence of crowds of people on the runway,” said a statement from Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

Three flights were due to carry about 900 passengers from Kabul to Islamabad on Monday, and all were cancelled, the airline said.

The country’s two main land border crossings with Afghanistan at Chaman and Torkham remained open on Monday after the Taliban took over the northern Torkham crossing a day earlier. Chaman, known as Spin Boldak on the Afghan side of the border, had been captured in mid-July.

On Monday, thousands of Afghans flooded into Pakistan from Afghanistan at the Chaman, local officials told Al Jazeera.

Local security official Ajab Khan said the number of Afghans entering Pakistan through the crossing, which requires Afghans to either hold a valid Afghan national identity document or a Pakistani refugee registration card to cross, was about twice the normal amount of daily traffic.

Many Afghans were also seen returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan through the border crossing, officials and local journalists said.

At the border crossing in Torkham, in Afghanistan’s northeast, there was no pedestrian traffic across the border, in keeping with regulations put in place weeks ago to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trade traffic had resumed on Monday, Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder reported from the border crossing, but the pace was slow, leading to lines of trucks stretching for several kilometres on either side.

Afghan delegation

Also on Monday, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi met a delegation of Afghan political leaders – including the speaker of the country’s lower house of parliament – in Islamabad.

The delegation arrived in Islamabad on Sunday, shortly after Kabul was encircled by Taliban fighters.

“The foreign minister underlined that the region could not afford continued instability in Afghanistan which would impact negatively the objective of a peaceful and connected region,” said a Pakistani foreign ministry statement.

“He added that international community’s continued engagement in the efforts for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan would be important as it was a shared responsibility.”

The delegation comprises the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Mir Rehman Rehmani, Salahuddin Rabbani, Mohammad Yunus Qanooni, Mohammad Karim Khalili, Ahmad Zia Massoud, Ahmad Wali Massoud, Abdul Latif Pedram, Khalid Noor, and Mohammad Mohaqiq, Pakistan’s special envoy to Afghanistan Muhammad Sadiq said.