From inertia to feel-good times

It is usual of the US to become friendly with Pakistan in times of need. Whether trust has actually been restored between both the countries, in the aftermath of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the US, can only become evident once the US leaves Afghanistan.

Imran Khan has come back from the US trip with four brownies:

One, President Trump’s plea to Pakistan: “to help us out to extricate ourselves” from Afghanistan.

Two, Washington’s offer to mediate in the Kashmir issue.

Three, resumption of security aid and bilateral trade with Pakistan.

Four, recognition of Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war against terrorism.

Each of these canons, called the beginning of a new relationship between the US and Pakistan, stoked frenzy in Indian media and its policymaking circles. All the hard work India has done, especially since Modi’s occupation of the prime minister’s slot, to paint Pakistan the originator and supporter of terrorism, looked going down the wrong way. The last straw that brought India to its knee in absolute fury was the mediation offer to solve the Kashmir dispute.

Indian media was frothing at its mouth, not on Trump but on Prime Minister Modi. According to President Trump, Modi had asked for the US mediation for the resolution of the Kashmir conflict, when both the heads of the states met on the sideline of the G-7 meeting in Osaka, Japan this June.

It in fact was a lingering anger. In spite of Washington’s desire to give India a significant role in the formation of Afghanistan’s post war government, India has been conspicuous only for its absence and not for any ice cutting initiative in the Doha parlance. Suddenly India’s investment in Afghanistan’s development and political capital lost spark.

Of course, the US is not happy on the manner it is constrained to end the Afghan war.

Even until 2018, Washington has been refusing to negotiate any peace deal with the Taliban, leave alone work out arrangements to bring them back into the folds of the new Afghan setup, as is the case today.

Furthermore, the US wanted Afghanistan to become a permanent CIA hub to monitor the Asian politics, which has traversed from a subdued continent to the one that connects regions across the globe on the Chinese model of connectivity manifested in the Belt and Road Initiative.

In like manner, The Whitehouse was against giving Pakistan a central role in any Afghan solution; the evidence lies in the breakdown of many negotiations Pakistan brokered in the past between the Taliban and the US.

Last but not least, the State Department is reluctant to give other regional powers, like China and Russia, not to forget Iran, any role to steer Afghanistan’s future.

Presumably, it was the frustration of the above unmet needs, that made President Trump say that he could have won Afghan war “in a week” but that he did not want to kill 10 million people.

The understanding that Pakistan could help the US in managing Afghanistan’s crisis was never taken seriously. Had it been so, neither had the US gone to war with Afghanistan nor it would have suffered untold miseries. Before the invasion, Pakistan had offered to the US a joint venture to hunt down Osama bin Laden. The offer was rejected. After the invasion, when the foundation of the new Afghan government was being laid in Berlin, Pakistan advised the US on forming an inclusive government, which had representation from the amicable section of the Taliban. The advice was rejected. The US was obsessed with both cleaning Afghanistan off terrorism and installing democracy followed by nation building. Neither worked.

The Taliban would return stronger because the governance structure the US had installed in Kabul lacked the capacity to unite and build the country. Afghanistan would soon become a powder keg, as the Taliban’s offensives were responded with more drone attacks, accelerated night raids on houses of suspected insurgents (who usually turned out to be innocent civilians) and incessant bombardments.

Throughout Pakistan kept telling the US to engage the Taliban in dialogue, but Washington preferred war resulting into the destruction of Afghanistan and the killing of the people in hundreds and thousands. Even though Trump had come to power with the promise to take the US out of wars, he nevertheless gave the Pentagon another chance by sending in more troops to Afghanistan. This too failed like all the previous reinforcements.

As always, Pakistan was blamed for this failure.

Such was the anger that President Trump’s first tweet on January 1, 2018 was a severe reprimand to Pakistan for not doing enough for the US while taking billions of dollars in aid. A year and eight months later, Pakistan is back where it belongs in the US-Afghanistan equation.

Other than standing by its stance to make Washington realize that Afghanistan’s geographic and ethical structure is too complex and intricate to win over through war, it is Pakistan’s new stature aspiring for a relationship based on mutual respect that has thawed the ice in the US-Pakistan relations.

It is now up to Pakistan to assist the US in making an honourable exit from Afghanistan. A strong association with the US could be effective in managing relationship with the international organizations. Washington’s credit rating goes a long way in securing us not just loans from the international donor organizations, but also in making us a trade friendly country. The Financial Action Task Force is one example.

Imran Khan’s demeanor at the Whitehouse exuded the honour and dignity that the country had been parched of for long now. To keep this honour afloat, Pakistan should see to it that it keeps its commitment of never again interfering into Afghanistan’s internal affairs and to persuade the Taliban to have an inclusive postwar government.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt