Michael O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow and Director of Research in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, US, has admitted that the US had committed mistakes in its foreign policy towards Pakistan and Afghanistan in the past.
He was speaking at a webinar on post-withdrawal Afghanistan organized by the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS). O’Hanlon said that despite Pakistan’s support to the US in the cold war, the latter left the region in the 1990s without any long-term engagement strategy for Pakistan.
He termed it a serious foreign policy mistake at a time when the US was having one of the best foreign policy administrations of its recent history.O’Hanlon maintained that Pakistan chose to develop a relationship with the Taliban during the same period.
He added that the astuteness of that decision was still being debated in Pakistan owing to its ramifications for the country in terms of the rise of religious extremism and militancy ’Hanlon was of the view that when the Taliban took over Kabul in 1996, life wasn’t any worse for a typical Afghan than before them in the early 1990s.
He added, however, notwithstanding the UN-mandated post-9/11 US intervention in Afghanistan, Pakistan still chose to retain its linkages with the Taliban like before.
The post-9/11 scenario, according to him, demanded a fundamental reassessment of Pakistan’s foreign policy towards Afghanistan “but Pakistan chose to let the Taliban keep going.”
He was of the view that Pakistan could have worked harder to deny the Taliban and their supporters ‘safe havens’ in Pakistani territory.
Nevertheless, O’Hanlon also blamed the flaws in the US counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan as well as its unwillingness to facilitate some kind of early power-sharing between the Afghan government and the Taliban for its failure in Afghanistan.
In addition, O’Hanlon listed the US failure to establish a functioning independent judicial system in Afghanistan as a factor in its inability to stem a Taliban comeback.