Overtures from Washington

Published: February 12, 2012

America will need Pakistan to bring to the negotiating table those factions of the Afghan Taliban that could continue to play the role of spoilsport, rather than being actual stakeholders. PHOTO: AFP

There are clear and unmistakable signs of a possible thaw emerging between Washington and Islamabad, with the head of the US Central Command expected to visit the Pakistani capital this month. Both sides are counting the threads of converging interests and a strategic rethink is taking shape on Pakistan’s possible role in US talks with the Taliban.

The deadly Nato attack on a Pakistani border post on November 26 last year had virtually frozen the relationship at both political and military levels, leaving the US to embark on a solo journey in uncharted waters as Washington engaged the Taliban for the first time without the help of Pakistan’s military and security establishment.

But the two months of estranged relations provided both sides an interlude of silence and gave them much needed time to pause and re-think. And with announcement from Washington on General James Mattis’s visit, the US has indicated that it is ready to “deal” with Pakistan on a post-conflict Af-Pak theatre.

The Salala check-post strike produced two clear geo-strategic casualties. Pakistan severed Nato’s supply route, forcing the US to shift to the alternate northern corridor, and the US could no longer benefit from Pakistan’s leverage with the Taliban as it proceeded to engage them in talks.

Though the suspension of the Nato supply line didn’t hurt the US in Afghanistan as much the general public and media in Pakistan would like to believe, the second factor is hurting Washington. America will need Pakistan to bring to the negotiating table those factions of the Afghan Taliban that could continue to play the role of spoilsport, rather than being actual stakeholders. The US would like Pakistan to oversee these very elements and, if possible, bring in more radical elements who may have the capability to destabilise a post-settlement Afghanistan. Perhaps that is why the US sees Pakistan’s role vital in these peace talks.

For Pakistan, however, the stakes and interests are much higher. It would like to have a certain and definitive role for Afghan Pashtuns who are more likely to be more sympathetic to it than other ethnic groups in Afghanistan. The current friendly overtures do not mean that Washington has acceded to whatever Pakistan was trying to achieve from this peace process. They probably mean that the US has decided to talk to Pakistan on its concerns, offer some leverage and possibly some role during the talks and get Islamabad to agree to the outcome.

Mohammed Rizwan

Mohammed Rizwan

A senior reporter for The Express Tribune based in Lahore.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Fahad Raza

    I think we should call quits to this affairs with “the world cop”. Its time we mind our own business. The time after the Salala bombing and NATO cut violence in the Pakistan has decreased. We should bring the matter to the table with whatever of Taliban’s left. Talk to them and tell americans that its no good bombing and staying any long for so called “Peace”.They don’t have enough money + their economy is in taters and it benefits if they stop droning the area. No body is going 8000+ miles to bomb them from Waziristan but they can within 800 miles which is not America its Pakistan.
    And yeah we should support Afghanistan with trade and “facilitating” i.e not interfering with their right to real democracy. The so called help to NATO in their war path should end.
    Let the People of Afghanistan be their own masters and nobody else. Not Pakistan Not India not Iran and certainly not any North Atlantic Terrorist Organisation. Recommend

  • Parvez

    Realistic view given. Our Afghan policy seriously needs readjustment considering the heavy price we as a nation are paying in the form of spreading religious extremism leading to intolerance in our society. Recommend

  • Genius

    Do the Pakistani officials have any choice while dealing with “world’s self appointed policeman cum hoodlum ziyaadah”?
    What sort of people rule over the politically inert US population?
    The answer can be found by reading through those publcations which tell us all as to what the democratic and free people of the US have endured in the past and endure every day. They endure rule by gangsters. What sort of gangster? The gangsters which control certain sections of the US administration if not all. The strife between the good and the ugly is to be found in every section of the administration. To get an idea of what goes on in reality behind the rosy claim of freedom and democracy it is well worth visiting following websites and read through true and harrowing stories endured by the people of the USA:

    http://www.wakeupfromyourslumber.com http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/
    http://www.truthout.org/ Recommend

  • rex minor

    When are the leaders of Pakistan civil and military going to show the level of the testaterones?

    Iran is the example; surrender should not be an option!

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Asgar

    @rex minor:
    What do you mean ‘to show the level of the testosterone’ ?
    Do you want war or what?

    Understand dude, we don’t have economy. Iran can Roar. We can’t still we are parasite on USA.
    Iran has got oil man. They have a good Economy.
    Their GDP is double of ours GDP.
    Their population is 1/3 of ours.Recommend