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Trump’s new found love for Pakistan

Trump’s new found love for Pakistan

 

Background

Now the US president Donald Trump has adopted a formal, diplomatic way of approaching its frontline partner in the terror war, instead of making use of the crude oratory that he is best at. Trump’s letter indicates that now there is a realization within the US administration that Pakistan’s co-operation is vital to ensuring peace in Afghanistan.

Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari demolished Khalilzad for his hawkish approach towards Islamabad by advising him to bring a “less arrogant and hostile mind set” during his visit to Islamabad. She credited Imran Khan for promptly responding to Trump’s Twitter tirade. She claimed that premier’s reply had ‘compelled Trump to do a reality check’. “So much for those in Pakistan who were quivering after Imran Khan’s tweets,” she added.

Trump’s Vision for Afghan peace

President Donald Trump is always in a hurry for everything and more so for achieving a favourabe Afghan endgame. In the backdrop of daily attacks by the Taliban, who now hold sway in about half of Afghanistan’s territory, the Trump administration has stepped up efforts to find a ‘peaceful solution’ to the protracted war. On the eve of US State Department’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad’s visit to Pakistan, Trump wrote a letter seeking Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cooperation, even though he has been a harsh critic of Pakistan and had even engaged in a twitter battle with Imran.

Letter came soon after Trump accused Pakistan of “doing nothing” despite receiving “billions of dollars” in aid. This is the first direct formal communication between the two leaders since Imran Khan assumed power. Trump has acknowledged that war has cost dearly both the US and Pakistan. And emphasized that Pakistan and Washington “should explore opportunities to work together and renew their partnership”.

Necessity of Pakistan’s Role

Trump “recognised that Pakistan has the ability to deny the Taliban sanctuary” on its territory. The letter also makes clear that “Pakistan’s assistance with the Afghan peace process is fundamental to building an enduring US-Pakistan partnership,” a US official said. Pakistan’s Foreign Office said that Trump asked for Islamabad’s “support and facilitation” in negotiating an end to the war, and offered to renew bilateral ties.

Although both the US and Pakistan now have a commonality of views on seeking a political solution to the Afghan problem, the trust deficit between the two is the real stumbling block. Relations between the two countries are tense despite recent efforts to reset the troubled ties. At the heart of their stalemate is the US insistence on Pakistan to do more to bring the Afghan Taliban on to the negotiating table.

Director General ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor told foreign journalists on December 04 that Pakistan’s influence over the Taliban is overstated, yet he said Pakistan has repeatedly told the insurgent group to join the peace process. He also cautioned against a hurried US retreat from Afghanistan that leaves behind a vacuum, warning “it would result in chaos”. He said a peaceful Afghanistan was in the interest of Pakistan.

Foreign media had reported that some members from the Afghan Taliban’s political office in Qatar were also in the federal capital during Khalilzad’s visit. The Taliban official said, their Qatar office had sent four officials to Islamabad during Khalilzad’s visit; their presence was in all likelihood a prelude to further discussions in Qatar when Khalilzad visits Doha. Khalilzad has accelerated efforts to find an Afghan peace pact that would allow for the eventual pull-out by the US from its longest war. Since his campaign days, Trump wants to end the war with Taliban, who are fighting to drive out international occupation forces, modify constitution and re-establish their control.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry promptly welcomed the US president’s outreach, saying: “Pakistan has always advocated a political settlement to end war in Afghanistan.” “Pakistan reiterates its commitment to play the role of facilitator in good faith,” the ministry statement said. However, “Peace and stability in Afghanistan remains a shared responsibility,” statement added.

Multi-lateral Dimension

The US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has indicated that his country US looked for every responsible nation to support peace in Afghanistan. He said that Washington was doing its best to protect Afghan people as its diplomats were working to end the war. China has welcomed, “the sound interactions between Pakistan and the US”, stressing that the relations between Islamabad and Washington were “conducive to the large picture of the international counter-terrorism campaign”. Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Geng Shuang said that China was happy to see the improvement of Pakistan-US relations and “support the equal-footed and mutually beneficial cooperation” between the two countries.

Media’s View

Pamela Constable in her recent piece “Trump sends letter to Pakistan asking for help with Afghan peace process” has stated: “Trump has been consistent in his criticism of Pakistan since he launched his South Asia and Afghanistan strategy despite multiple attempts made by the two governments to fix the problems in their ties”. Khalilzad has met with Taliban leaders and a number of regional officials over the past several months, but “there has been no breakthrough”. The insurgents continue to insist that “foreign forces must leave the country under any deal and that they will negotiate only with US officials”.

Conclusion

Pakistan has suffered more than 75,000 casualties in the war on terrorism as it had agreed to cooperate with the US in that effort, even though “no Pakistani was involved” in the 9/11 attacks. Instead of “making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures,” the United States should undertake a “serious assessment” of why, after a war involving hundreds of thousands of NATO and Afghan troops and more than $1 trillion in costs, the Taliban today are stronger than ever before. Since Pakistan has always advocated a political settlement to end war in Afghanistan, the US decision is welcomed,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “Pakistan reiterates its commitment to play a facilitation role in good faith. Peace and stability in Afghanistan remains a shared responsibility,” statement added. If current phase of diplomacy between the US and Pakistan is steered well, it could help ease tension between Washington and Islamabad; and bring peace to Afghanistan.

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