A US Congress report on Afghanistan has accused Pakistan of playing ‘active, disruptive and destabilising’ role in Afghan affairs, including through what it described as Pakistan’s support to the Taliban. “Many observers see the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan as a substantiative triumph for Pakistan, bolstering its influence in Afghanistan, and advancing its decades-long efforts to limit India’s influence there,” the bipartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, prepared by independent subject area experts, further said, adding that despite some ‘favourable’ comments top Pakistani officials, the regime’s power grab in the neighbouring war-torn nation may present challenges and complications for Islamabad.

The CRS report, which does not represent the official view of the US Congress and is prepared for lawmakers to make informed decisions on issues of interest, further warned that the United States could find itself ‘isolated’ if countries such as Pakistan, Russia, China, or Washington’s allies like Qatar, move towards greater acceptance of the Taliban. “This would weaken America’s leverage, and give the Taliban greater opportunities to evade or counter US pressure,” it said.

The document also warned of a ‘difficult but familiar’ challenge for US lawmakers in the event of acceptance of the current Afghan dispensation. “A less oppositional approach could allow us access to, and perhaps influence over, the group and events in Afghanistan. Engagement with a Taliban government which acts in support of some US interests and against others could compel policymakers to weigh and prioritise those interests, posing a difficult challenge, as it is a government which is neither governing democratically nor protecting human rights,” the report said.

Any ‘punitive’ approach by the Joe Biden administration could further worsen the already dire humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan, in addition to creating ‘uncertain’ implications for the Taliban, it also said.

The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan for a second time, on August 15, in the backdrop of the withdrawal of American forces which began on May 1. The pull-out, which ended on August 30, a day before a self-imposed deadline to do so, brought to an end America’s near 20-year-long military presence in that country.