By Reema Shaukat
December 13, 2018
WHEN it comes to regionalism, we witness US as a major power share holder in the region with regard to post 9/11 consequence. Though Cold War period contains another saga in it, when the two nuclear armed powers, USA and USSR, of that era came at an eyeball contact but haplessly South Asian region and particularly Afghanistan became theatre of war. Afghanistan later dealt with mess of Soviet invasion for long time and Pakistan was equally affected with this stand-off of superpowers of era. Since 9/11 and initiation of war “on” and “against” terrorism, we are seeing this South Asian region not only going through major shifts in political stability but also questing for peace and regional permanency. Though the international powers every time assure of Afghanistan’s peace, security and stability yet it seems an unreachable dream because of many factors. Present day Afghanistan is facing the challenges of poor economy, political instability, social unrest, civil disorder and many proxies in the form of ethno-political groups and individuals.
Ironically, the country has seen many ups and downs because of the presence of foreign forces that have tried to run the State affairs in their own manner, thus resulting in more turmoil. Afghanistan has remained the hub of Taliban and the country is witnessing burgeoning activities of Taliban groups again for the past few years, which is surely very challenging for the government and security apparatus of Afghanistan. Nonetheless US in the past has often announced that it will soon finish its set-up from Afghanistan and leave the country but there are many impediments in exercising this policy. Obviously keeping in mind, several peace initiations and their failure because of multiple factors, seems US itself either does not want to leave Afghan soil or is unable to understand regional dynamics of South Asia. But being a superpower, it appears that US wants to dictate terms and conditions for Afghanistan and other countries to keep its supremacy in the region.
On the other side, relations between Pakistan and US follow different trajectory often. Where US often blames Pakistan and pressurises for ‘do more’ or either simply bars fiscal and monetary extortions, to exercise its right of world dominion. Since August 2017, Pak-US relations are following bumpy paths. It was expected that Trump’s new policies will acknowledge Pakistan’s greater role in South Asian peace and stability but in turn they proved harder for Pakistan where it was asked to stop giving safe havens to terrorists, which do not exist in Pakistan. The year 2018 began with a new tweet of President Trump where Pakistan was blamed for ‘lies and deceit’ in the war against terrorism. It is quite rhetoric that with initiation of New Year, President of US selected a social media to address Pakistan. Well, for the past few months Pak-US relations have often turned concerning and decisive for both countries because of Trump tweets where it used to say Pakistan is doing nothing for us. But interesting development comes with Trump’s letter to Pakistani Premier.
According to media reports, US President Donald Trump wrote a letter to PM Imran Khan seeking Islamabad’s assistance and facilitation in achieving a negotiated settlement of the Afghan war. This seems quite encouraging and shows that US finally has realized that peace in Afghanistan is not possible without support of Pakistan and other regional powers. The letter, requests PM Khan’s “full support for the U.S. effort to advance the Afghan peace process.” The NSC and State Department said that in Trump’s letter to Khan, “the President recognizes that Pakistan has the ability to deny the Taliban sanctuary on its territory.
The letter also says that Pakistan’s assistance with the Afghan peace process is fundamental to building an enduring US-Pakistan partnership.” The letter also specifically calls for Pakistan’s cooperation with US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad. According to a State Department note, Zalmay is expected to meet with “Afghan government officials and other interested parties to support and facilitate an inclusive peace process in Afghanistan.” Pakistan Foreign Ministry in a positive reciprocal stated, “Since Pakistan has always advocated a political settlement to end war in Afghanistan, US decision is welcomed. Pakistan reiterates its commitment to play a facilitation role in good faith. Peace and stability in Afghanistan remains a shared responsibility.” Pak hopes that instead of chastising her, an atmosphere of amiability would prevail between these decades old partners which would lead to maintaining peace in the region.
While Pakistan not only wants to ensure regional stability, but also wants to reset its relations with US, so other side needs to comprehend dynamic role of Pakistan in the war against terrorism. International community must understand Pakistan’s role as front liner and know that failure to achieve desired objective to root out terrorism from the area, would be equally shared by entire international community as well as USA. US also needs to review its carrot and stick policy for Pakistan. Pakistan has gone a long way to improve security inside its land from terrorists and simultaneously has always raised voice for regional peace and stability. Meanwhile, Pakistan itself dealing with menace of terrorism and infiltration of terrorists from Afghanistan has always stressed on peaceful and stable neighbour. In the past Pakistan has always remained on forefront for all kind of peace initiatives. Certainly for regional peace it is important that all powers should come forward and try to work out for feasible and long- term peace enduring paces.
Reema Shaukat works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.