Cracks deepen between Pakistan, US on Afghanistan, engagement needed
A vast majority of Pakistanis believe that the US has failed in the war in Afghanistan despite using all its military power in 17 years and US President Donald Trump has put more pressure on Pakistan to find a scapegoat to convince Americans.
In a major shift in his preelection pledge to pull US troops out of Afghanistan, where the US forces have been involved in their longest ever war, Trump has agreed to deploy more troops.
Pakistanis also seemed upset at the US president's ignorance of Pakistan's anti- terrorism role which has claimed about 73,000 Pakistani lives, including over 6,000 security personnel, since 2003 when Pakistani troops were sent to tribal regions to fight against militants, many of whom had been forced to cross the border to Pakistan due to US military action in Afghanistan.
Trump had warned that his administration can no longer be silent about “Pakistan's safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond. Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.”
Experts in Pakistan are unanimous that Trump's new policy for South Asia is the continuation of the policies of his predecessors, Barack Obama and George W. Bush, to use the military option in Afghanistan instead of pressing for political negotiations.
Veteran Pakistani diplomat Ayaz Wazir argued that as the US is not winning the war in Afghanistan, it has started accusing and putting more pressure on Pakistan.
“This is a fact that Pakistan is very important and that is why Russia and China opposed pressure on Pakistan after President Trump unveiled his review for the region. Pakistan's role is more important even than the US in peace and stability in Afghanistan and the US should use this role,” Wazir told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Senior security expert Sayed Qaiser Hussain Shah opined that Trump has admitted that US policy in Afghanistan has failed since the start of the war.
“As the new US policy is mainly shifting the blame to Pakistan, the government should increase its understanding and cooperation with Russia, China, Iran and other regional countries to jointly work for peace talks in Afghanistan,” Shah, who has served as Air Marshal in Pakistan Air Force, told Xinhua.
He pointed out that Kabul also lacks a clear policy to deal with the situation and efforts for political dialogue in Afghanistan could reduce the influence of India.
Rahimullah Yousafzai, the resident editor of The News, said the US policy in South Asia is based on Trump's wishes, who unfortunately did not recognize Pakistan's sacrifices against terrorism.
People in Pakistan backed the government's decision to postpone the visit to Washington by Foreign Minister Khwaja Mohammad Asif in the wake of Trump's serious accusations against Pakistan. The visit was reportedly scheduled for last week.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells also had to postpone her Pakistan visit planned in this week on Pakistan's request amid tensions.
A senior Pakistani official has told Xinhua in Islamabad that the country had valid reasons to delay Asif's visit. “It would show our weaknesses if the foreign minister visits the US despite wild accusations and to discredit Pakistan's unprecedented sacrifices against terrorism,” said the official anonymously.
He, however, said Pakistan would engage the US and there could be high- level contacts on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly next month.
The official said Pakistan is focusing on consultations with the regional countries, including China, Russia, Iran and Turkey, to jointly work for peace in Afghanistan and the region.
Pakistani political leaders, including opposition parties, have showed rare unity against the new US policy and said the country would not surrender to any threats.