US National Security Advisor McMaster while warning Pakistan has bluntly remarked that our relationship with Pakistan no longer bear weight of contradictions. His self-assertion is basically laced with mantra of Do More. “President Trump is frustrated at Pakistan’s behaviour for providing safe havens to some militant groups and using banned outfits as an arm of its foreign policy. We have to really begin now to work together to stabilize Afghanistan and in a way that would be a huge benefit to Pakistan as well. Stop going after terrorist groups selectively, stop providing safe havens, support bases and other forms of support to their leadership”
It is true that a relationship of any kind cannot sustain long under weight of contradictions. In case of Pak US relationship, cause is not Pakistan. It is victim of its effect only. These originate squarely from US. More worryingly, there is seldom any gap or stop. Pakistan has suffered grievously at hands of relationship, burdened with numerous and enormous contradictions. It was end of its endurance and flexibility when it had to say no more Do More. We had enough. It was time for US and others to Do More. No fair-minded person could disregard or trivialize what Pakistan has done to make world safer from terrorism. Pakistan has gone even by extra lengths however, it cannot burn its extreme national interests to cinder. It is for US to address contradictions which have brought relationship so close to brink.
No Army accept defeat readily. It tries to find excuse. US has suffered defeat militarily in Afghanistan. Score of ungoverned spaces in length and breadth of Afghanistan is the ample proof. The blaming Pakistan for waging proxy war in Afghanistan could have two underlying purposes. One is scapegoating Pakistan for failure. Other is to prolong US’s stay in Afghanistan. US needs to accept reality and restrains from externalising blame. By independent estimates, half of Afghanistan is under control of Taliban. Majority of US led NATO forces has gone back home. There is no immediate and major threat to areas held by Taliban. A simple question arises; why should they have their bases in Pakistan and cut their leverage. It defies common sense that they are living and operating from sanctuaries inside Pakistan. Haqqani network is US’s opening gambit against Pakistan. It is a small group of 2 – 3 thousand militants. So much hullaballoo on their activities does not only sound absurd but equally appears an insult to US’s awesome military prowess.
A political settlement owned and led by Afghans is only way forward if aim is not other than peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan has ethnic and kinship ties with Afghan people. Their majority consider Afghan Taliban freedom fighters and US an intruder. Afghan Taliban are an indigenous force to be reckoned with. US wants to range Pakistan directly against them with ultimate aim of destroying reservoir of good will which Afghan people have for Pakistan because of brotherly ties and Pakistan’s great support in their struggle against Russian occupation and housing a large number of Afghan refugees. It is against extreme national interests of Pakistan. Pakistan could ill afford a hostile country on its western border too. Pakistan would not like to be a sandwich between its two long borders. A peaceful and stable Afghanistan is in best interest of Pakistan particularly, in context of CPEC. New US South Asia Policy whose centrepiece is Afghanistan is more likely to cause instability in region than bring peace and stability. Trump’s refusal to build Afghanistan is a real conundrum.. Afghanistan has no money for reconstruction, rehabilitation and raising effective law enforcement forces. Mess in Afghanistan is too big and severe. It cannot be put right by Afghan government alone; a government virtually hostage to foreign powers present there and confined to Kabul only. Trump is aversive to talk to Afghan Taliban until they are weakened by military action to negotiate peace deal under Kabul government’s terms and conditions. Ground realities suggests such methodology a mere illusion. It could only prolong agony, harden attitudes and pose serious hazards to peace.
A greater role to India in Afghanistan, being a regional leader, is totally inconceivable; a country plagued with constant defiance of UN Security resolutions, nuclearising South Asia and using terrorism as instrument of state policy. Crowning such country with a status of regional leader by the US is beyond comprehension. The countries emerge regional or global power on basis of constructive contributions for collective good. India has no such record. India is arch enemy of Pakistan. Whatever it is doing in Afghanistan, it is mainly in areas adjacent to Pakistan from where it could ditch Pakistan. In real sense, conferment of such role to India is tantamount to stabbing Pakistan at back and far beyond tolerance limits of Pakistan. These are the contradictions which are seriously impinging on Pak US relationship, not of those contradictions expressed by McMaster. Free world takes them a part of coercion and intimidation, unduly unleashed on Pakistan by Trump and his company.
— The writer, retired Lt Col, is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.