It is time to impose targeted travel and banking sanctions on the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Pakistani army officers involved in supporting the Taliban and other terrorist groups, says American expert Michael Rubin.
Rubin said the American defeat to the Taliban and, by extension, Pakistan is a humiliation rooted not in a US military failure but the corrosiveness and short-sightedness of Washington's own political debate.
"It is a blow the US might have avoided, but should not take without a response. Simply put, it is time to sanction Pakistan," said Rubin, who is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute where he specialises in Iran, Turkey, and the broader Middle East.
"Simply put, all sales of military and dual-use technology to Pakistan by the United States and its allies should cease immediately. The United States and its allies, many of whom have also suffered because of Pakistani duplicity, should withdraw support for loans for Pakistan from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and Asian Development Bank."
The US State Department has long been reluctant to impose sanctions on Pakistan. Perhaps senior diplomats believed they might better compel Pakistan with carrots rather than sticks, but the net result of US inaction was a sense of impunity in Islamabad and an emboldened Taliban. American credibility is also at stake, Rubin said.
The US and its allies must also support adding Pakistan to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) black list; this Pakistan remains on the grey list signals to Pakistani leaders that they can finance terror and launder money with impunity.
"Afghanistan is in freefall. The Taliban conquer city after city with impunity. The State Department leads with the Taliban to spare its embassy. A repeat of Saigon 1975 looms," he added.
It need not have been this way. President Joe Biden decided to withdraw forces to honour a peace agreement his and predecessor Donald Trump's Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad hashed out with the Taliban, never mind that the Taliban never abided by the terms of the agreement, Rubin said.
As for the Afghan military's failure to fight, Afghans are correct to point out that the fight would have been far easier if the US had not forced theKabul government to release imprisoned Taliban fighters.
Rubin said the real problem, however, is not Afghanistan but rather its neighbour Pakistan.
"Simply put, if Pakistan had not taken the decision to support, co-opt and control the Taliban, Afghanistan would never be in such a dire situation."