US Defense Secretary told senators – ‘Taliban’s relationship with ISI should be discussed in closed rooms’

Washington:  US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has told senators that Pakistan and its intelligence agency ISI’s ties with the Taliban can only be discussed in closed rooms. He was accompanied by two top generals. Austin told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, “A deeper conversation about Pakistan would probably be appropriate here in a closed room.” Two of his generals, the chief of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley and the US Central Command. Commander General Frank McKenzie said the same thing. 

“I have interacted with Pakistanis several times over the years and recently and there is no question in my mind that relations between Pakistan and the Taliban are becoming increasingly complicated,” Milley said. Lt Gen Faiz Hameed had gone to Kabul in the last week of August on an unannounced visit and met top Taliban leaders. He was the first high-ranking foreign official to visit Afghanistan since the Taliban captured the Afghan capital in mid-August. 

McKenzie said Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban are becoming increasingly complex as a result of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Senator Jean Shaheen asked, “Do we expect this relationship to become more complicated after the Taliban comes to power? Are we concerned about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and the potential that terrorist groups may be able to gain access to those weapons?”

 Asked by Senator Gary Peters about common interests with Pakistan, Austin said, “I think a major common interest is preventing humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan or the region. And so, I think we’ll continue to share that interest.”

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