Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, April 23rd, 2018

Edgy Relations vs. Peace Efforts

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Edgy Relations vs. Peace Efforts

As the clock is ticking to announce Bonn Conference 2 on Afghanistan, the country's significant neighbor Pakistan is said to have declined the invitation to attend the international conference going to be held on December 5 this year. The alleged denial comes as Pakistan's relations with its international strategic ally have dropped off dramatically. Following a series of divisive occurrences in relations between Pakistan and the United States, on Saturday, NATO military air operations on a Pakistani frontier check post left dozens killed and injured. The attack caused severe anger with Pakistani government and the nation.

Soon after the incident was released, the country's prime minister chaired an emergency high profile meeting to revise relations with the United States. Closure of NATO's supply route to Afghanistan and shutting down the US drone-stationed Shamsi air base in Baluchistan were amongst the very notable decisions the cabinet reached over the subject they called as explicit violation of Pakistan's sovereignty.

To communicate the decision made by the defense committee of Pakistani cabinet, the country's foreign minister held a telephone conversation with her US counterpart, Hillary Clinton. Pakistani foreign minister said the attack was "totally unacceptable" for the Pakistani government and people.

She informed the US about the decision to vacate the air base by 15 days. The base was previously used by US forces to launch drone operations against Al Qaeda and Taliban militants hiding across the country's border with Afghanistan.

On Monday, Pakistan ratcheted up pressure on NATO, threatening to drastically reduce cooperation on peace efforts in Afghanistan. To pacify Pakistani government, the US department of state, soon after the incident, put emphasis on continued cooperation with its South Asian partner.

US secretaries of defense and state discussed with their Pakistani counterparts the controversial incident and insisted on Pakistan's essential role in the decade-long war on terror. The incident has hurt Washington's efforts both to ease a crisis in relations with Islamabad and stabilize the region as it tries to wind down the war in Afghanistan.

Tension between the United States of America and Pakistan is not caused only by this recent accident but some other discords have pulled them apart. Killing of Al Qaeda Mastermind in Pakistani town of Abottabad by US Navy SEALs this year marked a milestone in discrepancy between the two countries.

Shortly after the incident, US congressmen called for revision of ties with Pakistan and US's aid to that country. However, Islamabad denied links with Bin Laden and his terror network. US military officials' allegation over Pakistani Intelligence Services links with the notorious Haqqani militant network toughened the situation.

Both countries blamed the other side for shortfalls made in the war against terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Analysts and US and Pakistani intelligence officials believe that US's relation with Pakistan has not been so bad for the last 20 years.

The US has counted on Pakistan's cooperation in fight against terrorism and extremism since the US-led attack on Afghanistan and ouster of extremist Taliban from power. However, the course of relations between the two countries has witnessed great vicissitudes.

According to many politician and military experts, the current level of trust and cooperation between the two countries remain at the lowest ebb. Previously, tensions rose over Pakistan's unwillingness to take action against Haqqani militants staying in Pakistan who fuel unrest in Afghanistan and fight against US forces here.

In the bluntest statements, US officials linked Pakistani army's intelligence network to Haqqani terrorist group. In comments that were considered the most serious charge that the United States has leveled against Pakistan in the decade, US's top military official had said that Pakistan's spy agency played a direct role in supporting the insurgents who carried out the deadly attack on the American Embassy in Kabul.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, went further than any other American official in blaming the ISI for undermining the American effort in Afghanistan. He had said, "the Haqqani network acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency".

In view of that, Obama administration officials have stressed the need to put pressure on Pakistan for cutting ties with the militant group. United States has seriously asked its Pakistani ally to take sufficient and immediate action against Haqqani militants using FATA safe havens in Pakistan.

However, Pakistani army resists rebuffing allegations. They say Pakistani forces' death toll in fight against militants in the tribal areas demonstrates the country's commitment to peace and instability in the region. As such, responding to questions on the recent deadly airstrike on Pakistani soldiers, some NATO military officials have asserted they were searching for Taliban strongholds near the border with Pakistan when they came under attacked from beyond the border.

Diversities arise as the US-led NATO forces are preparing to leave Afghanistan and handover security job to Afghan government by 2014. As seen clearly, the US and Afghan government acknowledges that Pakistan's function in fighting terrorism remains substantial.

Despite criticism and shortfalls, the US needs Pakistan's companionship to push forward the lagging process of peace building in Afghanistan. And president Karzai's government has also sought Pakistan's help over reconciliation process.

To help the mission get accomplished successfully, to save Afghan and Pakistani nations and to secure the world, all parties need to make sure that the shared strategic vision serves as a common principle to get united to complete the war on terror. In the meanwhile, Pakistan requires taking more practical steps to uproot militancy there. Acknowledging the sacrifices it has made so far in fight against terrorism, more needs to be done. And Pakistan holds the key to overcome this scourge.

No need to say, the war on terror is far from over unless militancy is uprooted in the region, especially in the terrorism hotbed, Pakistan's tribal belt. For getting the job done, the international community needs to get Pakistan's role in the process reinforced.

The US administration has frequently reiterated that, despite tense relations with Pakistan, the US will not risk any damage in bilateral ties with it. In spite of edgy relations between the two allies, both sides agree that they need to considerately carry on cooperation to bring an end to the scourge of terrorism.

Fighting against terrorism has served as axis for cooperation between the two states and this very factor asks both parties to actively work on the long exhausting mission. However, responsibilities need to be based on transparent mechanisms to avoid further blunders such as those committed during the last decade.

On the other hand, however, Pakistan herself remains a poor victim of terrorism. Militants have imposed great costs over the country for their uncontrolled presence in the tribal belt and the increasing violent acts across Pakistan.

It says it is genuinely cooperating with the Afghan government and the international community to put an end to terrorism. If worsened further, tense relations between the two significant stakeholders in the war against terrorism will fatally affect the peace building process in Afghanistan.

Going to attract higher international consensus on continuing efforts in Afghanistan to end terrorism and rebuild the country, the United State and Afghanistan will need to have Pakistan cooperate over the current incomplete processes here.

Nasrudding Hemati is the permanent writer of Daily Outlook Afghanistan and Writes on National and International issues. He can be reached through mail@outlookafghanistan.com

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