Dear America: It’s Your Turn to ‘Do More’

By Ishaal Zehra

“We need to give attention to the important role Pakistan plays in the Afghanistan issue, and respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and security concerns”, said the Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi over a telephone conversation with US State of Secretary Rex Tillerson on August 23.

“China stands ready to keep communication and coordination with the United States on the Afghanistan issue … and political dialogue is the only solution to the Afghanistan issue,” Yang further said while exchanging views with Tillerson on the current situation of Afghanistan. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying also gave a strong statement accentuating that “Pakistan was on the front line in the struggle against terrorism and had made great sacrifices and important contributions in the fight.”

After China’s strong message, Russia also has resonated similar sentiments following Trump’s daft allegations on Pakistan.

Russian Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov slammed Trump’s Pakistan strategy and insisted that Islamabad is “a key regional player to negotiate with. Putting pressure on Pakistan may seriously destabilize the region-wide security situation and result in negative consequences for Afghanistan”.

Meanwhile in Pakistan, the civil and military leadership has expressed serious reservations over the new US policy on Afghanistan. Consultations at the highest levels concluded that Pakistan will not give in to any American pressure or demands. It has been conveyed to the US administration through diplomatic channels that Pakistan will set her strategy for a peaceful Afghanistan in line with her own national security policy.

It is also heard from a horse’s mouth that Islamabad has set its own strategy to deal with the new US strategy. Pakistan, they said, has warned the US of possible pull-out from the Afghan reconciliation process if Washington didn’t change its approach.

According to media reports, Pakistan has told US Ambassador David Hale that neither was Islamabad dependent on Washington for its defense system nor did its economy need American financial assistance. Islamabad has sent a clear message to Washington: Shifting the blame for your own failure in Afghanistan and arm-twisting won’t work anymore.

“Pakistan is not looking for any material or financial assistance from [the] United States but needs trust, understanding and acknowledgement of its contributions in the war against terror,” US Ambassador David Hale was told, when he called on Gen. Bajwa in Rawalpindi. “We have done a lot … and shall keep on doing our best, not to appease anyone but in line with our national interest and national policy,” Gen. Bajwa was quoted in an army press statement later on.

The signals emanating from White House, Capitol Hill and mainstream media on ‘US policy on Afghanistan’ point to a rather frustrated and confused mindset. Trump made a speech as the C in C of US military and expected rhetoric should be seen in that perspective, his speech also addressed a divided domestic polity.

Logically, if the US led military alliance of 46 countries could not break the surge of insurgency over a period of 16 years, even after spending almost one trillion dollars, what do they expect from Pakistan? Pakistan Army, on her part, has done a tremendous job by successfully fighting against terrorism on her soil. As Laurel Miller, former US State department official who remained special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2013 to June 2017, argues that “it’s not that there’s no leverage on Pakistan but the Pakistan is not going to change her perception of her own national security interests based only on American pressure. There has to be something that attracts the Pakistan to cooperate in a positive way with the United States.” But she also thinks that president Trump strategy has missed the “key element of any semblance of a political strategy for Afghanistan that could bring stability to the country and could give Pakistan another regional player and opportunity to see the potential for their own interests to be satisfied.”

International community should also ponder on the prolonged Afghan conflict and needs to support Afghanistan in achieving a broad inclusive political reconciliation, support the Afghan people in pursuing a development path that suits their own national conditions and support the Afghan government in increasing it capability to fight forces of extremism and terrorism. Time has come to realize the strategic environment in Afghanistan and find a political solution to the imbroglio by taking all stake holders on board, there is simply no other way.

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