U.S. President Donald Trump’s unexpected letter to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan seeking help and support for the American initiative to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan by bringing the Taliban on the negotiating table has baffled the diplomatic observers in New Delhi.
By Dinesh Sharma
The war in Afghanistan is now longer than that in Vietnam. But the inability of the Kabul Government to defeat the Taliban insurgents notwithstanding the presence of the western troops led by the U.S. has created a state of stalemate. The Afghan conflict has turned into a quagmire for the U.S.
The problem for the U.S. is that it cannot leave Afghanistan unless the insurgency comes to end either through military action or negotiations. If the western troops leave Afghanistan without a solution, the collapse of the government would become inevitable.
Washington had realized early on that more than the Taliban Pakistan was real problem. Islamabad has always seen the Taliban as assets. A government in Kabul controlled by Islamabad gives it big military and diplomatic leverage against India. Therefore, Islamabad has refused to cooperate with the U.S. in the war.
Besides, Pakistan has been milking the U.S. of billions of dollars in the name of facilitating the movement of war material and personnel to the landlocked country through its borders. But cleverly enough Islamabad pursued the policy of running with the hound and hunting with the hare.
While Pakistan’s notorious intelligence agency ISI not only has kept line of communications with the Taliban but provided its leadership with much-needed sanctuary. That al-Qaida leader was killed in Quetta, near its military base, Mullah Omar, the leader of Taliban died in a Karachi hospital where he was being treated exposes the duplicity of Islamabad.
Surprisingly, all the American administrations before Trump was elected knew of the Pakistani game. For whatever reasons, they kept treating the country with kid glove. Only after Trump came to power he changed the course, cut off aides and threatened to declare Pakistan a terrorist state if the country did not toe the line of Washington.
But suddenly U.S. President has toned down his trademark belligerence and asked Pakistan to support its move on Afghanistan. Now the question arises will Pakistan jettison its long-cherished strategy of using Taliban as assets against India. One condition of Islamabad has been that India should have no role in the affairs of Kabul’ and New Delhi should be kept away from all initiatives.
With the latest u-turn by the U.S. President, it is to be seen if Washington will agree to keep India out from the process of reconciliation. Secondly, China would not like Pakistan to accede to the demand of the U.S. as Beijing is happy to see Washington bogged down in Afghanistan. Only time will tell which side Islamabad will lean on the issue.
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