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'Shared goals' for US, Pakistan in Afghanistan
Publication Date : 21-03-2013
Pakistan shares the US goal of restoring stability to Afghanistan, says an American expert while a former US envoy urges Washington to strengthen its trade and investment ties with Islamabad.
But Pakistan’s former ambassador Husain Haqqani has urged the United States to break up ties with his country so that it “can find out whether its regional policy objectives of competing with and containing India are attainable without US support”.
In a testimony before a sub-committee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Peter Bergen also warned the United States against over-reliance on unpopular drone strikes in Fata.
Bergen, who is a director at a Washington think tank, the New America Foundation, said that the United States and Pakistan had enough common grounds to work together in Afghanistan.
“On Afghanistan, Pakistan has some important common goals with the United States, Nato and Afghans themselves,” he said. “Pakistan does not want to see Afghanistan collapse into a renewed civil war which would destabilise Pakistan too.”
Bergen also rejected a perception that Pakistan wanted the Taliban to return to power in Kabul after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
At a separate discussion at another Washington think tank, Marc Grossman, America’s former special envoy for the Pak-Afghan region, urged the United States to strengthen its trade and investment ties with Pakistan.
Grossman, who left the Obama Administration in December 2012, told an audience at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that the United States “should continue to take steps with Pakistan to promote further counter-terrorism cooperation and support for peace in Afghanistan”.
He said one of the important developments in the last year had been Pakistan’s open expression of its commitment to support an Afghan-led peace process.
At the House subcommittee, Bergen said the United States could work with Pakistan to create conditions for a successful transition in Afghanistan after 2014, after Washington’s planned withdrawal of combat troops from that country.
Bergen also advised the Afghans to recognise the Durand Line, drawn by the British in 1893 which now serves as the de facto border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.“The fact that Afghanistan doesn’t officially recognise this border makes its claims that Pakistani-based militias routinely violate this border ring a little hollow,” he said.
He argued that the general elections in Pakistan this year and in Afghanistan next year would also play a crucial role in securing the long-term interests of the United States in the region.
Bergen emphasised the need to base America’s relationship with Pakistan on “trade rather than aid” as it would benefit both.
Haqqani also addressed these issues in an article he wrote for a popular current affairs site, “Foreign Policy”, arguing that the US and Pakistan should acknowledge “their interests simply do not converge enough to make them strong partners”.
He wrote that by coming to terms with “this reality, Washington would be freer to explore new ways of pressuring Pakistan and achieving its own goals in the region”.
Islamabad, meanwhile, “could finally pursue its regional ambitions, which would either succeed once and for all or, more likely, teach Pakistani officials the limitations of their country’s power”, he added.
Haqqani pointed out that the relationship between the United States and Pakistan had never been good.
He quoted a recent opinion poll which showed that a majority of Americans viewed Pakistan unfavourably while another found that about 70 per cent of Pakistanis disapproved of the US.