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Pak-US thaw? Trump mulls reset as Pentagon calls Pakistan part of the solution

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A prominent US daily “The Washington Times” has asserted that the election of Imran Khan as the Prime Minister of Pakistan offers Washington with a rare window to reset relations with its critical ally. A recent Pentagon report has also asserted that Pakistan has to be part of the solution in Afghanistan.

The opinion piece “Trump administration eyes restoring Pakistan’s security funds as part of reset with new leader” has stated that the new government in Islamabad has the chance for a new reset in ties but both sides face a slew of difficult issues and a lack of trust in any effort to improve relations. In a report, the daily said after the recent democratic transition of power in Pakistan last month, some of President Trump’s top advisers have argued that the time is ripe for Washington to restore the military reimbursement for Pakistan that was stopped at the start of the year.

Kulbhushan Yadev, an Indian intelligence operative arrested in Balochistan, also admitted to the Indian consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar as financing conduits for terrorism inside Pakistan.

The daily quoted a former US ambassador to Pakistan as saying that the recent cutting of US security funds to Pakistan was “an absolutely terrible decision.” It also noted that Pakistan has sacrificed thousands of lives as one of the closest U.S. allies in the war on terror and that pushing the nuclear weapons state too far from Washington’s orbit of influence could have dire consequences.

Meanwhile, a report summarizing the US military chief’s recent visits to friendly nations, including Pakistan has stressed that Pakistan has to be a part of a solution in Afghanistan. Released this week the report states that the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Joseph Dunford’s visit was “maintaining and building alliances” and reaching out to “prospective partners to encourage cooperation and interoperability.”

Read more: Pentagon acknowledges Pakistan’s sacrifices during war on terror

About the General’s Islamabad visit the report states “Pakistan is key to the ‘South Asia Strategy’ that President Donald Trump espoused in August 2017. Pakistan has to be a part of a solution in Afghanistan.” General Dunford accompanied US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo while meeting Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The report quoted Dunford as saying that he found a lot “of consistency” between the objectives of Pompeo and Imran Khan. It also highlighted the need to “reset the Pak-US” relations as well as “implement the decisions taken at Pak-US meetings.”

General Dunford accompanied US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo while meeting Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Dunford highlighted the significance of Pakistan in the long-running US-Afghan conflict. “What we want to see: the Taliban at the peace table dealing with Afghans,” Gen Dunford stressed “And we believe the Pakistanis play a unique role in bringing the Taliban to the peace process.”

Read more: Pentagon moves to scrap $300 million in aid to Pakistan

Analysts assert that it appears the USA considers its current steps against Pakistan as not working. The steps by the Trump administration has only decreased the leverage the US had over Islamabad who has used the opportunity to become closer to other nations such as China, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

According to Major (retd) Saeed ul Hassan “ The Trump strategy of trying to squeeze Pakistan through financial and diplomatic means has only helped Islamabad in cultivating deeper ties with former adversaries in order to lessen Washington’s hold”.

Some were already critical of the US policy towards Pakistan under the Trump administration.

Most of the current Pak-US tensions seem to be revolving around Afghanistan. The US is fighting one of its longest wars in Pakistan’s western neighbour and routinely blames Pakistan for insurgent attacks within Afghanistan. At the same time, it doesn’t consider Pakistan’s apprehensions of safe havens for terror groups fleeing anti-militancy operations into Afghanistan.

The steps by the Trump administration has only decreased the leverage the US had over Islamabad who has used the opportunity to become closer to other nations such as China, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has made safe havens inside Afghanistan from where it launches attacks inside Pakistani territory. Declared a terror group in the USA, Washington has largely failed to take action against Afghan and Indian government support to the TTP. The Indian presence inside Afghanistan has also been a problem between both sides. The US desires Indian help inside Afghanistan while Pakistan is wary of New Delhi’s influence across its western border.

Read more: Pakistan: Hard choices ahead for a ‘Soft State’

Pakistan has acquired and presented proof of Indian involvement in terror attacks inside Pakistani territory. One of the most significant of these was the admission of former TTP spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan that the TTP received material help from the Indian agency RAW. Kulbhushan Yadev, an Indian intelligence operative arrested in Balochistan, also admitted to the Indian consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar as financing conduits for terrorism inside Pakistan.

It can be asserted that Pakistan’s geostrategic significance ensures that the US will always desire its partnership for the foreseeable future. Pakistan may still be vulnerable on many fronts but experience has persuaded Islamabad that kowtowing to the US demands and pressures is no longer feasible. It seems that now Washington can no longer treat Pakistan as a client state but must now interact with it as a partner with genuine concerns.


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