National Security Adviser (NSA) Moeed Yusuf dismissed on Thursday allegations of Pakistan extending support to the Taliban in Panjshir — the last holdout Afghan province where the group defeated resistance forces earlier this month — linking the accusations to a “fake news network” created by India and a “bogey” by previous governments in Kabul.
On September 7, demonstrations were held in Kabul against the backdrop of the Taliban taking up Panjshir, with protesters denouncing perceived meddling by Pakistan.
Yusuf was asked about these claims during an appearance on CNN’s Connect the planet , where journalist Becky Anderson mentioned the accusations by anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan and Iran’s foreign ministry condemning “foreign interference” within the war-torn country.
“Did the Pakistani army support the Taliban attack on anti-Taliban forces in Panjshir using drones and/or other weaponry?” asked Anderson.
“It’s preposterous is all I can say,” replied Yusuf.
The NSA acknowledged that Pakistan had been saying that “project Afghanistan” was failing due to the country’s internal problems, a number of which he attributed to a corrupt government.
Yet the planet saw Pakistan because the problem, he said.
“This was scapegoating by previous governments in Kabul which, unfortunately, the international community started believing because they didn’t want to speak about their own failures,” he said.
Specifically answering allegations regarding Pakistan helping the Taliban with drones in Panjshir, the NSA delayed a paper showing screenshots of Indian news channels, which he said had been spreading fake news about Pakistan.
Pointing to a picture on the paper, he said: “This is mainstream Indian media showing an American jet flying over Wales within the uk and presenting it as Pakistan doing something in Panjshir.”
He went on to mention that India had spent many dollars in “creating a fake news network [against Pakistan]”.
The image Yusuf was showing was shared by some Twitter users, who claimed it to be a Pakistan Air Force jet shot down by resistance forces in Panjshir. But a fact check by Dawn.com and independent journalists showed the image was actually from 2018 within the us .
Anderson also questioned Yusuf on Pakistan’s involvement within the formation of the new Taliban government, pertaining to the ISI chief’s recent visit to the country.
At that, Yusuf asked, “Why did the CIA director attend Afghanistan much before my ISI chief went there?”
He said that the ISI chief had visited Afghanistan, and would visit again, as Pakistan shared a border with Afghanistan and had to interact with the new government to form sure that the border was secure.
Yusuf also acknowledged that other countries had sought Pakistan’s help for evacuation from Afghanistan and cooperation was needed thereon front also .
Dubbing the reports of Islamabad’s involvement a conspiracy theory, he said there was no logic to them, because the ISI chief was interviewed by the media during that visit which defied that he was on a “secret mission”.
“Pakistan has the proper to defend its national security,” he said, adding that it might still do so by engaging in Afghanistan.
He further said the planet needed to maneuver beyond these conspiracy theories and cooperate to profit the common Afghan man.
Yusuf then denied Islamabad’s involvement within the formation of the new government in Afghanistan, saying that it had been a sovereign country.
Meeting between COAS and CIA chief
Earlier within the interview, Anderson asked Yusuf about the recent meeting between Central intelligence (CIA) Director William Burns, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt Gen Faiz Hameed in Islamabad.
The NSA said the CIA director was here to debate things in Afghanistan and such consultations would continue.
He added that the threat of terrorism following recent developments in Afghanistan was also discussed during the meeting — a problem that Pakistan had raised multiple times.
Yusuf said Pakistan shared an extended border with Afghanistan, through which “instability had spilt over” to the previous for the past four decades. Since 9/11, he said, many lives were lost in Pakistan, the country’s economy had suffered and it faced the matter of internally displaced persons.
He said terrorists had turned on Pakistan after it had extended support to the US following 9/11.
For Pakistan, he said, instability in Afghanistan was an “existential problem”.
Yusuf said it had been for this reason that Pakistan had been urging the international community to stay engaged in Afghanistan and to form sure that there was no economic meltdown.
When Anderson asked about whether Pakistan would cooperate further on fighting terrorism, Yusuf answered by asking when Pakistan had not cooperated on the matter.
“I told you [about] the type of support we provided and therefore the quite cost we purchased it,” he said, adding that Pakistan couldn’t afford instability in Afghanistan and disengagement with developments in Afghanistan wasn’t an option.
But, he said, the cooperation had to be “under a legal framework”.
“There are often no boots on the bottom of any foreign country in Pakistan. Pakistan cannot partner unless it’s mandated and sanctioned under law of nations .”
He further stated that the error committed after 9/11 shouldn’t be repeated.
“One thing was said and other thing was done by the US … et al. .”
He reiterated that Pakistan would cooperate during a transparent manner, but there should be no infringement on its sovereignty.
‘Let’s incentivise good behaviour’
The NSA further stated that rather than talking about the anticipated security vacuum and other problems in Afghanistan, the planet should specialise in averting these problems.
“Let’s engage the truth in Afghanistan. Let’s incentivise good behaviour, and by doing that, get to a governance model that gives for the typical Afghan, and there’s no need for a security vacuum because the country would be stable.”
He said Pakistan was willing to figure with the international community for ensuring a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, but “the engagement has got to come from the West as that’s where the legitimacy lies for the Taliban.”
‘Security threat from TTP’
To an issue about the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan gaining some ground following the developments in Afghanistan, Yusuf acknowledged that there was a security threat from them and it had been one among the explanations the ISI chief visited Afghanistan.
He said Pakistan’s stance was that Afghan soil shouldn’t be used for terrorist activities.
As Anderson steered the conversation again to Afghans protesting Pakistan’s involvement in their country, Yusuf said “minds are poisoned there for over 20 years”.
With a video of a protest playing on the screen, he reiterated that Pakistan was made a scapegoat by previous Afghan leaders, particularly pertaining to former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani’s claim that Islamabad had planned to send 10,000 t0 15,000 terrorists across the border.
“Are we mad that 10-15,000 people are crossing from Pakistan and no-one notices?” Yusuf remarked.
The NSA also said that demonstrations weren’t held at as large a scale as had been reported.
He said there had been a “fabrication of reality” and Afghans and Pakistanis shared relations that went back centuries.
The NSA maintained that the reports were blown out of proportion and Pakistan would still work with Afghanistan to make sure security within the region.