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The Afghan Conflict and Afghanistan's Relations with Pakistan

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In the last year Islamabad has entered into dialogue with Kabul as part of its talks with the USA.

This area of Pakistan’s foreign policy is dominated by the country’s military. The involvement of the armed forces in foreign policy is a characteristic feature of the country’s domestic political development. Another key feature of this development is the fact that now, in 2019, for a number of different reasons, Islamabad is no longer intimidated by US sanctions and threats. However, this does not mean that it has stopped listening to the White House.

The main goal of Donald Trump’s administration in Afghanistan is to bring an end to the conflict and achieve a victorious withdrawal of US and NATO troops from the country, while also avoiding the risk of attacks by armed terrorist groups on US citizens, that is, to eliminate the risk of a repeat of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

This period has seen a complete change in Washington’s approach to Islamabad: in 2017-18 Donald Trump was accusing Islamabad of sheltering leaders of the Afghan Taliban and threatening to launch coalition military strikes against Afghan militants in Pakistan, but in December 2018 he wrote a letter to Imran Khan, the Pakistani Prime Minister, requesting his support in the organization of talks with the Afghan Taliban.

The USA has persuaded Pakistan to play a more active role in the fight against terrorism, and has put pressure on its former ally in order to achieve this goal. For example, the White House has gone back on its promise to provide Pakistan with financial and military aid, has put increased pressure on the International Monetary Fund, and, in August 2018, it refused to allow Pakistani military servicemen to study in US military academies, although a quota for such placements had already been agreed. But Pakistan did not give in to the pressure.

The change of course in the USA’s Afghan policy was a response to the failure of its previous strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia (August 2017) which focussed on achieving a military solution to the Afghan civil conflict. The revised strategy (June 2018) put the emphasis on promoting talks in order to settle the crisis through negotiation.

The ongoing military campaign, which started in 2001, has cost Washington more than a trillion dollars and many thousands of lives. Despite these losses, Donald Trump has declared that the USA will bring the anti-terrorism campaign to a successful end. In view of the fact that he has only two years of his presidential term left, it is likely that 2019 will see a large number of developments, both diplomatic and military, in the USA’s policy in relation to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Now, in 2019, the military stand-off between the armed opposition and the Coalition forces is so entrenched that neither the Taliban nor the Kabul government, with its current level of support from US and NATO troops, are able to achieve a strategic victory. The military victory of the Taliban will be dissolved, as neither the USA nor any of the national governments in the........

© New Eastern Outlook