Damned if it does, and damned if it doesn’t.
The war in Afghanistan has cost the American taxpayers a whopping $714 billion. The 16 year toll last month rose to 2,216 US military personnel killed and the US still far from winning the longest war in its history. The Taliban controls or contests 40 percent of Afghan districts. What perturbs the US is that 8,400 US troops plus 4,000 allied troops are unable to break the stalemate in the ongoing war. The 11 ton ‘mother of all bombs’ (MOB) dropped in April in Nangarhar neither destroyed the IS nor put the fear of US weaponry in the Taliban. A highly clueless Donald Trump is fuming and fretting. Last week he threatened to sack Gen Nicholson, the US commander in Afghanistan.
The National Unity Government led by President Ashraf Ghani stands divided with three of its alliance partners joining hands against the President. Afghan parliament elections due in 2016 have been postponed to July 2018. Unable to stem the Taliban’s offensive or remove the government’s deficiencies both the US military officials and Afghan government hold Pakistan responsible for their failures. There also appears to be a consensus within the Trump team and between the administration and Congress that Pakistan must stop the alleged cross-border attacks into Afghanistan or face the consequences. The new US strategy is reportedly aimed at putting more US pressure by expanding drone strikes, reducing aid to Islamabad and downgrading Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally.
Peace and stability in Afghanistan is a pre-requisite for consolidating Pakistan’s gains against the terrorists. What stands in the way are doubts and suspicions on both sides. Attempts made over time are often wasted by a single incident on either side. Pakistan needs to patiently pursue measures to remove the backlog of misunderstandings. Among other things it should be seen to be ridding the country of all types of terrorist networks. It should also take action against alliances of banned groups operating under names like Defence of Pakistan Council.