New chapter in Af-Pak relations?

Sep 21, 2017
By Miranda Husain
It was the speech that Donald Trump should have delivered to Pakistan.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani might not have his predecessor’s flamboyant wardrobe but he demonstrated almost equal doses of charisma at the UN. Aside, that is, from his near total endorsement of the Trump strategic vision for South Asia. Which of course focuses on a meagre 4,000-strong troop surge and cutting aid to Pakistan.
Nevertheless, it is time for this country to sit up and listen. Too easy would it be to dismiss this as the delusions of an apprentice-president more suited to prime time television. Especially given that the Taliban have spent the last 16 years fighting the world’s most sophisticated war machine and, if they haven’t won, they have, at least, not lost. It is also time to read between the lines. Above all when these are dropped by Trump, a man who, at times, appears to confuses policy briefs with tweets. Thus the point is that only a handful of US troops would be needed to secure Afghanistan provided that the Pakistani snake is decapitated once and for all. Let’s hope that such flattery doesn’t go the heads of those at the helm.
One thing that Ghani doesn’t appear to be doing is gloating. Yes, he has said that the Trump vision includes sending a strong message to the Taliban and their backers that this is a battle that can’t be won militarily. But he has also called for all ranks of the Taliban to engage in intra-Afghan dialogue. And while there are those here in Pakistan who might pout at possibly being sidelined out of a so-called mediatory role next door — he has signalled that he does want earnest dialogue with the state apparatus here, too. Moreover, he describes this as a collective responsibility that sits on all regional neighbours’ shoulders. Of course, Pakistan is the only one that is named. But then, he deserves that much.
Ghani is right when he calls on the international community to look at his country through a different prism. Namely, not one of civil war. By this he means that this is a battle not waged primarily within Afghanistan’s borders but over its territory. Again, this is a direct reference to Pakistani manoeuvrings. In reality, however, this equally applies to all those who are bogged down there, mired in a power struggle that is not theirs. For just as there are militant groups that use the false banner of religion to consolidate power within national borders and beyond — so, too, does the US hide behind its own bogus emblem of democracy as it quietly continues the march towards Empire.
Though the Afghan president does try and steal the Pakistani crown when he recasts his country as the frontline nation in the GWOT. But we should let him. It is, after all, nothing but a crown of thorns. After all, despite whatever meddling Pakistan has or has not done — the fact remains that the oppressively brutal Taliban regime flourished across the border, playing host to Al Qaeda. And that this was well known by everyone.
That being said, Pakistan now needs to give peace a chance. It needs to ‘nation up’ and become a driving force for positive change that recasts both Kabul and Islamabad as regional brokers of peace and economic prosperity. And once that happens — there will be absolutely no need for any US troops to be stationed anywhere across the border.
Daily Times, September 21, 2017

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