Pakistan’s neutral role in Afghanistan can help stablise relations with US


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan can avoid ‘rupture’ in relations with the United States by helping it in the stabilisation of Afghanistan. This was suggested by Dr Moeed Yusuf, associate vice president of the Asia Center at the US Institute of Peace (USIP) Washington, while speaking on “Trump Administration’s Prospective Policy towards Pakistan” at the Center for International Strategic Studies (CISS), Islamabad.

Dr Yusuf proposed that Pakistan should act against Haqqani Network and Taliban in a strong manner.

He gave an overview of the ongoing reassessment of US policy on Afghanistan issue by Trump administration and its likely implications for Pakistan-US ties. The policy that would emerge from the process, which has come to be known as the “South Asia review”, is expected to have a greater regional perspective.

Dr Yusuf said that Washington can get harsher on Islamabad on the issue of terrorist sanctuaries. He said there were divisions within Trump administration on dealing with Pakistan, but one view that is gaining traction among the public is that pressure on Islamabad for acting against Taliban and Haqqani Network should be ramped up.

Violence has increased in Afghanistan and the Afghan government is still struggling to contain Taliban insurgency. As per UN statistics, there have been 1,662 civilian deaths during the first six months of the year, a majority of them resulted due to suicide attacks and improvised explosive device blasts.

President Trump appears to be losing patience with the situation and in one of the review meetings, he suggested firing of his top commander in Afghanistan Gen John Nicholson.

Pakistan is blamed for the worsening situation in Afghanistan for not eliminating Haqqani Network and Taliban sanctuaries. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs and Acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Amb Alice Wells, while visiting Islamabad last week, stressed that “Pakistani soil must not be used to plan or conduct terrorist attacks against its neighbours”.

Dr Yusuf warned that a breakdown in bilateral relationship would serve neither country’s interests and advised that ways should be explored to avoid such an undesirable situation. He noted that while neither sides want a split, but a terror attack on American forces/civilians in Afghanistan can prove fatal for the relations.

Dr Yusuf was further of the view that while it was difficult for US and Pakistan to develop convergence on Afghanistan, India, and the nuclear issue, efforts should be made for broadening the areas of cooperation.

Earlier, Executive Director CISS Amb Ali Sarwar Naqvi gave his take on US-Pakistan relations and the existing regional situation.