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Pakistan’s Imran Khan says the Taliban are ‘normal civilians’

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Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said that the US has "really messed it up” in Afghanistan and referred to the Taliban as “normal civilians”.

During a TV interview with American broadcaster PBS, Mr Khan said that Pakistan, the eastern neighbour to Afghanistan, hosts three million Afghan refugees.

His response came as Judy Woodruff of PBS questioned him over longstanding US and Afghan government accusations that Pakistan provides a safe haven to the Afghan Taliban.

“When they say that Pakistan gave safe havens, sanctuaries to Taliban, where are these safe havens? When you, when we said, there are three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, who are, by the way, the same ethnic group as the Taliban, Pashtuns, now, there are camps of 500,000 people,” Mr Khan responded.

“There are camps of 100,000 people. And Taliban are not some military outfit. They are normal civilians. And if there are some civilians in these camps, how is Pakistan supposed to hunt these people down? How can you call them sanctuaries?” he added.

Pakistan has long been accused of providing military, logistical, financial and intelligence support to Taliban insurgents fighting the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

"Intelligence estimates indicate the influx of over 10,000 Jihadi fighters (into Afghanistan) from Pakistan and other places in the last month," Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Mr Ghani alleged on 16 July in the presence of Pakistan’s prime minister at a conference in Dushanbe.

Pakistan rejected the claims and said Afghanistan has not provideds any evidence to support their claims.

Mr Khan, however, blamed the US for the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, saying the “US has really messed it up in Afghanistan” by seeking a “military solution” to the conflict.

“And people like me who kept saying that there’s no military solution, who know the history of Afghanistan, we were called, people like me, were called anti-American. I was called Taliban Khan,” he said.

He also criticised Washington for looking for a political solution after NATO troops had been significantly in number.

Subsequently, Mr Khan said, “the Taliban thought they had won” and there was little chance of getting them to compromise.

He added that a government with the Taliban which would involve some sort of power-sharing arrangement with Kabul was the “best outcome” and Pakistan would accept a Taliban victory.

The Biden administration has committed to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan by 11 September this year. About 90 per cent of the forces have already pulled out according to US Central Command,

The Taliban has claimed it controls vast swathes of Afghanistan as it has rushed to fill the political vaccuum left in the wake of the troop withdrawal.

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