Washington, Sep 14 (PTI) A powerful American lawmaker has sought to explore the possibility of over-the-horizon capabilities in northwest India for counter terrorism capabilities in Afghanistan, which is now being ruled by the Taliban.
The Biden Administration, in response to specific questions raised by the lawmaker during a Congressional hearing on Monday, has preferred not to make specific comments on this issue publicly.
"Generally, Congressman, we're deeply engaged with India across the board. With regard, though, to any specifics about over the rise in capabilities and the plans that we put in place and will continue to put in place, I'd rather take that up in a different setting," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a Congressional hearing.
Blinken was responding to a specific question from Republican Congressman Mark Green.
"Considering rumours of ISI’s support for the Taliban, have you guys reached out to India as a possible staging area for the over-the-horizon forces? I'm talking about northwest India as a potential because we all know Qatar and Doha, the other places, are just a little bit too far,” Green said.
"Kuwait, all of that. What about northwest India? And have you reached out -- have you thought about that?” he asked.
The so called "over-the-horizon" capability means maintaining the ability to deter or destroy would-be terrorist plotters from far longer range.
Republican Congressman Scott Perry said that the United States should no longer pay Pakistan because of its support to terrorism. "I would say that we should no longer pay Pakistan and we should pay India," he said.
Democratic Congressman Bilk Keating alleged that Pakistan played an active and by so many accounts a negative role in Afghan affairs for decades, not just recently but for decades.
"From the very beginning, its inception, they helped in actually branding the name Taliban. And by 2005, when the Taliban was reconstituting in east and south Afghanistan and, importantly, across the border in Pakistan and as Pakistan's ISI, their Inter-Services Intelligence agency, had such strong ties and cooperation with the Haqqani network, responsible for so many things, including the deaths of some of our soldiers,” he said.
"Even recently, when the Taliban took over in the last month, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan claimed that Afghanistan had ‘broken the shackles of slavery’. So, we used to always hear diplomatically that we have a complicated relationship with Pakistan,” he said.
"I would say it's often duplicitous. So, as we go forward in the region, as we go forward dealing with our counter-terrorism missions, how do we reassess that relationship? How will we learn from their actions? When we go forward, what do we do? What are some of the big issues that we should have stakes in the ground that we should have in dealing with Pakistan and the way they've acted over these decades?” Keating asked.
Blinken appeared to have agreed with Keating. “I think you're very right to point at the role that Pakistan has played throughout the past 20 years and even before it. It is one that has involved hedging its bets constantly about the future of Afghanistan. It's one that's involved harboring members of the Taliban, including the Haqqanis,” he said.
"It's one that's also involved at different points of cooperation with us on counter-terrorism. And so, there are a number of things that have come into play. It has a multiplicity of interests, some that are in clear conflict with ours. When it comes to Afghanistan, it's focused, of course, as well on India and the role that India is playing in Afghanistan,” Blinken said.
"It (Pakistan) looks at it through that prism as well. All of these things have influenced what it has done on many occasions, detrimental to our interests; on other occasions, in support of those interests.
"And so going forward, what we are looking at (and) what we have to look at is an insistence that every country, to include Pakistan, make good on the expectations that the international community has of what is required of a Taliban-led government, if it's to receive any legitimacy of any kind or any support going forward; to include ensuring freedom of travel; to include making good on its commitments on not allowing Afghanistan to be used as a haven for outward-directed terrorism; to include upholding the basic rights of the Afghan people, including women and girls and minorities,” Blinken said.
"So Pakistan needs to line up with the rest of the … with a broad majority of the international community in working toward those ends and in upholding those expectations,” said the top American diplomat.