President Ashraf Ghani has announced Kabul’s willingness to recognize the Afghan Taliban as a legitimate political party if they accept a cease-fire and the rule of law. He has also pledged to start a new chapter in relations with Pakistan. Pakistan has welcomed the offer, and said it is ready to facilitate talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Yet some important pieces of the puzzle are missing. For both the Taliban and Pakistan, where the United States stands is more important than what Ghani is offering. The Taliban are opposed to the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan, and would rather talk with Washington than Kabul. And the U.S.-Pakistan relationship remains out of alignment with the prospects of peace and stability in Afghanistan.
The U.S.-Pakistan relationship was troubled long before President Trump’s New Year’s Day tweet that accused Pakistan of “lying and deceit.” Problems between the two countries are long-standing, and neither occupies the moral high ground in the eyes of the other: the United States regards Pakistan as a two-faced ally, while Pakistanis have long dwelled on the recurring pattern of America’s betrayal and abandonment.
Pakistan has a lot to answer for. It has lived dangerously for decades. Its liaison with militant organizations and the Afghan Taliban has served a foreign policy that has produced internal security challenges and friction with the United States.
But to define Pakistan only by its failures does not tell the whole story. Pakistan, to the extent permissible by its national interests, has also provided valuable cooperation in support of U.S. regional policies. And even if Pakistan’s policies were ill considered, that should not delegitimize its interests.
U.S. foreign policy has always faced a dilemma in dealing with Pakistan. Washington does not see clear, long-term strategic interests in Pakistan, but has found its services valuable in meeting specific and sporadic geopolitical and security challenges.
The two countries never had a strategic convergence during their alliance. Their interests often differed—and when their interests converged, their policies differed. The relationship thus brought harm, along with benefits, to both sides.
“The Weight of Contradictions”
National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster said in a Voice of America interview in January that the U.S. relationship with Pakistan “can no longer bear the weight of contradictions.” In the context of President Trump’s tweet, he was obviously referring to Pakistan’s behavior—but the reality is that these contradictions are on both sides.
From the late 1950s until the mid-1960s, the two countries were allied in advancing Washington’s containment policy against Moscow. Pakistan received substantial economic and security assistance, which helped stabilize the fledgling country as it struggled for survival. But the U.S. relationship with India suffered, and Pakistan’s democratic process was marred by its army, strengthened by the United States. In the 1980s, Pakistan helped the United States defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan, hastening the collapse of the Soviet Union. But, under the umbrella of this cooperation, Pakistan went on to complete its nuclear program, in breach of U.S. nonproliferation objectives.
Since 9/11, Pakistan has provided valuable cooperation in the war on terrorism, including critical logistics support to the war effort in Afghanistan. But Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan have complicated that effort. And the war’s blowback has brought enormous harm to Pakistan’s security, economy and stability. Washington is understandably angry about American soldiers coming under attack by the Haqqani network, which is said to be based in Pakistan. Pakistan, for its part, feels hurt by the death of nearly seven thousand of its security personnel at the hands of terrorists, in retaliation for the Pakistani army’s support for what they see as America’s war in Afghanistan.
The challenge is how to provide their transactional relationship some strategic cover to reconcile these contradictions. The reality is that it cannot be done. Any strategic relationship with Pakistan runs up against the failing war Afghanistan, in which Pakistan’s role remains ambiguous, and America’s strategic relationship with India, where the United States has found not only geopolitical but also regional convergence. But no issue has done more damage to the relationship in recent years than the war in Afghanistan.
The Afghan War and U.S.-Pakistan Relations
It is never easy to manage a war-centric relationship, especially when the war has not been going well. This is what has happened to U.S.-Pakistan relations. There are many stakeholders in the war, and each has failed to varying degrees. No leaders in the White House or Congress have been capable or willing to fix the war, so the easier thing to do is use Pakistan as a lightning rod. Pakistan is made out to be the sole cause of the war’s failure—an explanation that satisfies all those involved.
Source : http://nationalinterest.org/feature/what-pakistan-needs-americas-afghan-war-effort-25040