Photo: White House/Katie Ricks

White House Urges Dialogue Between Pakistan and Taliban After Airstrike 

WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES – In response to Pakistan’s airstrike in Afghanistan, the White House has called on Pakistan and the Taliban to resolve their differences through dialogue.

During a press briefing on Monday, March 18, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre emphasized that the US remains committed to ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists who wish to harm the US and its partners and allies.

Her statement comes after Pakistan conducted on Monday airstrikes as part of what it described as an intelligence-based counterterrorism operation in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktika and Khost provinces . The operation aimed to target hideouts of terrorists responsible for multiple attacks in the country.

Condemning Pakistan’s cross-border attack as “reckless” and a violation of Afghanistan’s sovereignty, the Taliban said that at least eight people, including women and children, were killed in the assault.

The ruling regime in Afghanistan warned that such attacks could have “very serious consequences” that would be beyond Pakistan’s control.

The Taliban Ministry of Defence subsequently claimed that, in response to Pakistan’s airstrike in Afghanistan’s territory, they targeted Pakistan’s military installations along the border area with powerful weaponry. Neither Pakistan nor the Taliban has disclosed additional details regarding the Taliban’s attack in border regions.

“We are aware of the reports, obviously, that Pakistan carried out airstrikes in Afghanistan in response to the attack in Pakistan on Saturday at a military post,” Karine Jean-Pierre said. “We deeply regret the loss of life and injuries sustained during the attack in Pakistan and the loss of civilian lives during the strikes in Afghanistan,” she added.

The White House press secretary urged Pakistan to exercise restraint and ensure that civilians are not harmed in their counterterrorism operations. Additionally, she called on the Taliban to ensure that terrorist attacks are not launched from Afghanistan soil.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan airstrikes in eastern Afghanistan have elicited widespread reactions among Afghan political figures both within and outside the country.

Naseer Ahmad Faiq, the Chargé d’Affaires of Afghanistan Permanent Mission to the UN, strongly condemned the attack, stating that military airstrikes on Afghanistan’s soil under any pretext violate international law and Afghanistan’s territorial integrity. He emphasized that such actions cannot be justified by any security threat.

Condemning the Pakistan attack as a “blatant violation of Afghanistan’s sovereignty,” former President  of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai warned that such actions by Pakistan could harm relations between the two countries as well as peace and stability in the region.

The operation Pakistan carried out resembles airstrikes that became a hallmark of the American War on Terror in the aftermath of September 11 attacks. In that two-decades long campaign that many argue left the world a less secure place, Pakistan played a pivotal role as a strategic ally of Washington. Many of the strikes that targeted Taliban hideouts in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan were carried out from airbases and operation centers inside Pakistan.

The White House’s conciliatory tone in encouraging the Taliban, once a prime target of the US as a terror group, and Pakistan, an ally in that effort, only speaks to the shifting dynamics in a volatile region where Washington is seen sometimes as a bigger ally of the Taliban than Islamabad.