Pak-US Relations: Resetting the terms of engagement in Afghanistan

The election of Imran Khan to the prime Minister office is no less than a glimmer of hope for the nation’s lost credentials and credibility in the comity of nations. Mr. Khan however has assumed the charge of the office whence Pakistan confronts a few major challenges on the foreign policy front. For instance, Pak-US relations are on a constant course of hiccups whilst the relations with Afghanistan has again entered the blame game phase. It is also imperative to mention that insecurity in Afghanistan is one of the major reasons for the deteriorating relation between Pakistan and US.

Peace in Afghanistan could greatly be favored and facilitated by Pakistan, but for that to happen, the trust deficit at the part of US must seriously be addressed. US ought to undertake Pakistan’s efforts in curbing terrorism genuinely. US at this point needs to understand that with the development of SCO as a viable alternative power center foster US diffusion as a global power by providing alternatives to countries like Pakistan. Furthermore, referring to some media reports, both Russia and Iran are engaging Taliban to counter the US influence in Afghanistan. Given these circumstances Pakistan is the only country over which US can exercise its limited leverage. US so far is the sole super power and there is certainly no defying of this truth and thenceforth Pakistan’s national interest lies in improving relations with Washington.

Mr. Khan has a longstanding stance for a peace process and political settlement in Afghanistan and for Mr. Khan there is much more work to be done like sorting out the differences between the US and the Haqqani network , Stability on Afghanistan-Pakistan border and the reconciliation with Taliban. Now, as far as Khan’s stance for a peace process and reconciliation with Taliban is concerned, the stars seems to be in favor for both the presidents, Trump and Ghani have come to more or less the same position as both favors and supports direct talks with Taliban. Mr. Khan believes and has already said that a peaceful Afghanistan is a pre requisite for a peaceful Pakistan. Moreover, Kabul and Islamabad at this point should relate to the classic example set by India and China, where both the countries are willing to strengthen their economy and are trying to prove that adversarial relationships of the past and the territorial disputes have neither stood their way nor stop them from building and developing strong trade and economic linkages.

Times have changed, Globalization and economic development has revolutionized the world by large and the current geo-political rivalry rests in staying ahead economically, technologically, industrially and by staying domestically politically stable. Washington in this regards can play a beneficial role by opening the diplomatic channels with the elected politically democratic government rather than the GHQ. As Mike Pompeo is scheduled to visit the country in the running month, the encounter may help in easing the tensions between Washington and Islamabad. There also seems to be the realization of Pakistan’s critical and the pivotal role in any potential Afghan Peace Process that the US has been ignoring for so long in the past.

Mr. Khan’s formidable challenge at the very first place would be to put a halt on the ongoing sub-conventional warfare, which has scared the relations between both the countries. However, as a prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan now has an opportunity to energize a peace process, for he is the longstanding critic of the US occupation of Afghanistan and also an advocate of political reconciliation which has earned him a libel ‘Taliban Khan’. With certitude it is now a tough job to translate election campaign promises into a reality.

To conclude Pakistan would always remain a problematic partner in the opinion of the US officials and is always being looked as a problem to be fixed than a country to be engaged with. Prime Minister Imran at this point has an opportunity to change such a notion once and for all.

Ubaid Ahmed
Ubaid Ahmed
Research Associate Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) Islamabad. He can be reached at ubaid[at]