Twenty years ago, the United States overthrew the Taliban regime and sent troops to Afghanistan with the intention of rooting out terrorists. Three years ago, the Americans entered into direct talks with the Taliban to strike a deal that would end their expanded military presence. On both occasions, the United States relied on Pakistan, first for the logistical support of its army and finally for the facilitation of dialogue with the insurgent leaders.
As the Americans leave Afghanistan, several American commentators have also expressed their desire to withdraw from Pakistan. It would be a mistake. As frustrating as Pakistani policies have been for the United States, Pakistan remains important for American policy. As the disaster immediately following the withdrawal from Afghanistan shows, frustrations over difficult engagements are compounded by unfulfilled disengagement.
There are arguments for a new round of Pakistani-American engagement, albeit on a more frank and realistic basis. Given the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the need to secure another friendly foothold in this much troubled part of the world, Pakistan could be a useful US partner if it wants to be.
The franchise should work both ways, but so far some of Pakistan’s official spokespersons are singing an old and tired tune. and the terms of Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, he presents himself as the victim and the United States as the problem.
Over the course of this ballad, by supporting the United States and its coalition in Afghanistan, Pakistan has drawn the hounds of war and other misfortunes. While lecturing Judy Woodruff on PBS NewsHour last month, Prime Minister Khan pointed out that the war has cost Pakistan hundreds of billions of dollars in economic losses and 70,000 deaths in the war on terror. Pakistan also hosts three to four million Afghans who have fled the violence.
But even if they firmly believe their own narrative, senior Pakistani officials shouldn’t expect Americans to now believe what they have refused to believe for 20 years. President BidenJoe Biden Kentucky state lawmakers vote to end school mask mandate Arkansas governor pushes back Biden vaccine mandate RNC vows to continue Biden vaccine, MORE test mandate does has, so far, not spoken to Khan because he heard the point of view before this chaos in Afghanistan is the fault of the United States and that Pakistan was an innocent victim.
As Vice President, Biden participated in the 2009 Afghanistan-Pakistan Review conducted by the Obama administration and subsequent decisions. suffered to have become a major non-NATO American ally.
Biden was also in power in 2011 when a wrongful assassination by CIA contractor Raymond Davis of unarmed Pakistanis following him exploded, revealing rifts between the CIA and Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) . He attended meetings on the attack on the United States Embassy in Kabul. by the Haqqani Network, which US officials believed to have taken place with the knowledge of ISI officials. Biden also opposed the Afghan push and recommended a much smaller military presence. He understands that Pakistan’s target in Afghanistan differs from that of the United States
Pakistan wanted Indian influence to end, while the United States wanted jihadist groups to end. Now that the Taliban have taken over Afghanistan, Pakistan’s fear of Indian influence across its northwest border has vanished. There is little reason for Pakistan to claim that it has nothing to do with the Taliban or to apologize for the obscurantist beliefs of the Taliban.
Pakistan would do better to accept that Americans know about Pakistani policies of the past two decades, and then determine what actions and arguments might be best received by the US government under the new circumstances.
China, Iran and Russia made their own deals with the Taliban to drive the Americans out of Afghanistan. They will all have different, and possibly opposing, interests now. President Putin has previously expressed Russia’s concerns about the expansion of radical Islamism in Central Asia.
The anti-American coalition that enabled the Taliban to win will now shoot in different directions. Pakistan should now consider aligning itself more closely with the United States to prevent a resurgence of Islamist terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The ISI is supposed to be well informed of conditions on the ground in Afghanistan. Pakistan could help the United States, India and other countries prevent future terrorist attacks. But only if Pakistani leaders make it their goal.
Pakistan will still have to convince the Americans that it has turned its back on all jihadist terrorist groups, including those targeting India. But true counterterrorism cooperation in the future would provide a better basis for US-Pakistan relations than playing the old victimization song that has not and will not sell in the United States.
Pakistan must take seriously the American wounds inflicted by Pakistan’s widely recognized support for the Taliban and other terrorist groups rather than denying them. Prime Minister Khan’s preference for supporting mainstream anti-Western ideas and presenting them as Islamic ideology is not lacking in Washington.
Americans, on the other hand, should not ignore Pakistan’s importance to its region and to the world. Until a new solid foundation is laid for US-Pakistan relations, Pakistan’s old siren song will not play well and help improve relations.
Husain Haqqani is Director for South Asia and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute. He served as Pakistani Ambassador to the United States from 2008-2011. Harlan Ullman, Ph.D, advised the Pakistani government from 2008-2012 and is Senior Advisor to the Atlantic Council.
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