White flags or hidden agenda

The US President Donald Trump, whose hands remain on his twitter handle to bash Pakistan for the failure of his South Asia and Afghan, strategy has written a letter to the Prime Minister Imran Khan for facilitating Afghan peace process to arrive at a political settlement of the 17 years long unwinnable war. According to statement issued by the Foreign Office, the US President has also acknowledged the war costs both the United States and Pakistan. He has also emphasised that both countries should explore opportunities to work together and renew partnership.

The Foreign office has welcomed the US decision for negotiation, noting that Pakistan has always advocated political settlement to end war in Afghanistan. The foreign office statement reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to play a facilitation role in good faith and said “peace and stability in Afghanistan remains the shared responsibility.

Earlier President has been consistent in his scathing criticism of Pakistan since he launched his south Asia and Afghan Strategy despite multiple attempts by the high officials of two governments to fix problems in their ties. The visits of US State Department Deputy Special Assistant Secretary for South Asia and Central Asia and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Islamabad were aimed to do the damage control of President Trump outbursts against Pakistan. The relations between the two long times allies in the region moved on the downward trajectory, when US president accused Pakistan of telling lies and giving deceit in return for receiving billion of dollars in economic and security assistance, suspending the security assistance and reimbursement of coalition support fund. Likewise, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued red alert to the International Momentary Fund (IMF) to be careful while approving economic bailout as the fund reserves also contain American taxpayers’ money which cannot be used to pay Chinese debt which Pakistan acquired for CPEC projects.

Last month a row began with Trump’s interview with fox news led to a series of tweets by both the US head of State and Prime Minister Imran Khan. President Trump while talking about reasons for ending over a billion annual aids for Pakistan at the beginning of the year said the country didn’t do anything for us. Prime Minister Imran Khan had to give a sharp reaction to Trump’s tirade against Pakistan hinting a review of foreign policy options and asking the US President to introspect on the real reasons of American failures in Afghanistan. Perhaps the US President didn’t visualize the difference in the style of genuine leadership and the one installed in Islamabad by foreign powers through NROs. He had in mind the diplomatic debacle of previous PPP government in the wake of Salala Chepost attack by NATO helicopters, temporary stopping of NATO supplies to Afghanistan, political dramatics by the parliamentary committee on National Security headed by Senator Raza Rabbani, empty from substance resolution by the parliament and finally reopening NATO supplies without a single word of regret from the United States.

The second Afghan peace Conference held in Moscow in November may have created a realisation in Washington to give a bit of momentum to peace talks on Afghanistan. A report in the Washington Post interpreted the Moscow moot on Afghanistan indicative of Russia’s ambition to reenter in the great game of Central Asia. Russia pledged to use its diplomatic muscles to help spur peace efforts in Afghanistan after hosting Afghan envoy and their Taliban foes—a meeting that Moscow also used to showcase its drive to reassert its influence in the region. Russia hosted the landmark talks almost 30 years after it pulled out of Afghanistan, ending a decade long Soviet occupation that was as another chapter what the historians called the “great game” by world powers to hold sway over Afghanistan and nearby areas. The US abandoned Afghanistan at the mercy of warlords after the withdrawal of Soviet forces and the war torn country became the epicenter of terrorist outfits leading to 9/11 incident.

Russia is genuinely worried about the presence of ISIS fighters in Afghanistan and its likely spillover to the Central Asia, which the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov alleged to be relying on foreign sponsors. The United States has started direct talks with the Taliban in Qatar. The spadework was done by Alice Wells US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia and Central Asia. Now the US Special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has entered the arena of direct talks with the Taliban. He has reached Islamabad to hold talks with the top civil and military leadership of the country and will also take them into confidence over American negotiations with Taliban.

This is the second visit of the US Special Envoy to Pakistan in the previous two months. He is visiting eight countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Belgium and UAE. In October, President Trump’s points-man held a series of meetings with Pakistani leadership in Islamabad as a part of Washington’s renewed push to bring Afghan Taliban to the negotiation table. Does the Moscow led and the US led peace processes complimentary or contradictory in the essence to each other?



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