The US is gradually coming to terms with how the Afghan situation is slowly spiralling out of control; this is best evidenced with how frequently the country’s plight is talked about by the US leadership in recent times. The Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats’ pessimistic report about the future of Afghanistan and Kabul having to defeat or agreeing to a peace deal with the Afghan Taliban – or risking losing the small gains made in the country – tells us that the US government is finally coming to terms with reality. However, it is strange that even with this knowledge, the priorities of the US government remain slightly askew.
A trilateral meeting at GHQ Rawalpindi with top military brass and representatives from the Resolute Support Mission – the 13,000 strong NATO and US forces present in Afghanistan – alongside the Director General Military Operations of Afghanistan discussed military operations and cooperation, and agreed that tackling the IS threat was paramount to bring peace to the country.
Daesh is only one of the many terrorist factions vying for power in Afghanistan – some experts would even claim that prioritising on IS operations in the country is counterproductive, simply because the Afghan Taliban are a much bigger problem.
The stark difference in the two statements by US representatives tells us that there is still no clear idea on how to approach Afghanistan. The US cannot simply pullout without leaving a gigantic mess, is looking to bring more troops in – even though that policy failed miserably – and doesn’t even have a clear idea of which target it wants to focus on.
On one hand, Indian media is gleefully reporting that the report of Dan Coats also included scathing criticism of Pakistan’s inability to counter militants targeting India and Afghanistan and blamed us for allowing Pak-India ties to deteriorate to this level, yet on the other, there are trilateral meetings being conducted on Pakistani soil to establish what to do next.
But whatever the official statements say, the reality cannot be ignored – the US has come seeking Pakistan’s help. This offers to Pakistan a hope for days past, when Afghanistan, the US and Pakistan were jointly fighting the war on terror cooperatively, without Pakistan being looked at as the enemy. The difference this time however, is that thankfully, Pakistan will not have to commit as much effort to maintain its end of the bargain, as it did in the past. The most practical way to ensure peace in Afghanistan and the region is to improve border security, and Pakistan is already committed to that project.
Pakistan is already doing what must be done – can Afghanistan and the US do the same?