United States and Pakistan working towards reconciliation on Afghanistan
Despite reservations and doubt over sincerity by either side, Pakistan and the United States are now moving forward to repair ties, although at a slow pace.
As Pakistan government has started to take some actions against militants and making in-roads for a negotiated settlement of Afghanistan, the United States has finally taken notice of freedom to anti-Pakistan terrorist groups allied with Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan or TTP in Afghanistan.
During last six months, the U.S. drones have changed their course and started hitting anti-Pakistan elements while Pakistani armed forces have targeted several terrorist hide-outs along Pak-Afghan borders and unearthed huge weapons and explosives destined for Afghanistan.
The U.S. move to put head money for anti-Pakistan terrorists’ gang leader Mullah Fazalullah has also been welcomed in Pakistan. TTP leader Fazalullah backed by certain foreign elements has carried out dozens of bloody attacks on Pakistani targets since 2006.
Another important decision by both Pakistan and U.S./NATO forces in Afghanistan is continuous disruptions of drug mafia in both the countries. The U.S. Air Force has bombed several drug factories while Pakistan’s Anti-Narcotic Force (ANP) operatives have foiled dozens of attempts to smuggle drugs to the Middle East and Europe from Afghanistan via Pakistan.
To much embarrassment of U.S./NATO forces during last 15 years, opium production in Afghanistan has increased while Pakistan has managed to curb opium production but control on drug mafia and smuggling is still lacking in the absence of Pak-Afghan cooperation.
There are enough indications that Pakistan is now struggling to satisfy the U.S. and International Community of its sincerity to bar militants from using its territory and recent Pakistani actions have to some extent pleased the international community although they want to see a quick result. Pakistani officials privately complain that “U.S. want to move too far too fast” while Pakistan is looking for ‘slow and steady’ and a long-term peace prospect in the neighborhood.
Another major concern of Pakistanis is U.S. alignment with Pakistan’s arch-rival, India, China and even strengthen India’s role in Afghanistan, the backyard of Pakistan. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s anti-Pakistan tirade and bid to isolate Pakistan international has also caused serious anxiety in Islamabad.
India has also opposed China’s decision to initiate CPEC projects that will bring development of a new strategic sea-port in Pakistan and lay down a network of roads and railway networks with investments of more than 55 billion US dollars.
Pakistanis argue that it was India which supported the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan for more than a decade while Pakistan working as a strategic ally of the Western powers had to face the burden of over 3.5 million Afghan refugees for over three decades and had to suffer the backlash of drugs and Kalashnikov culture. So, Pakistanis think that it was not “justified” to bring India into Afghanistan and undermine Pakistan’s “brotherly relations with Afghans”. This fear is the key to Pakistan’s reluctance in supporting U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.