The US is in no hurry to end the stalemate in formal talks with Pakistan since its 46th President Joe Biden came to power in November last year. During his first public hearing in Congress about Afghanistan after America’s embarrassing withdrawal, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Washington will be looking at its relationship with Islamabad in the coming weeks. The US diplomat stated that the reassessment of the relationship would depend on how Pakistan deals with Afghanistan following the announcement of the all-male cabinet of the interim government in the war-torn country. America has voiced its concern over the lack of representation in the cabinet that is primarily held by the old guards of the Taliban movement. It is then clear that there will be no major US policy shift towards Pakistan as it would be seen purely from the Afghan prism.
Twenty years later, Pakistan’s relationship with the US has come full circle with it going from a strategic alliance to that of a transactional one. And the Biden administration doesn’t seem to be changing that as it looks to push Islamabad to ‘do more’ once again. Blinken made it clear that for Islamabad to hope for talks it has to ensure that the new Afghan government “make good on the expectations that the international community has of what is required of a Taliban-led government if it’s to receive any legitimacy of any kind or any support.”
But irrespective of US desires, Pakistan has accepted the de facto Afghan government on principle. While no formal announcement has been made, the fact that Islamabad maintains its diplomatic mission in Kabul shows there is recognition. This is mainly because Pakistan fears that if Afghanistan is left alone, the security vacuum that may exist will lead to terrorism threat in the region. It is time for Washington to realise the same.
Sidelining Islamabad is only going to hurt US’ role in preserving the gains of the last 20 years. Pakistan is the most influential regional stakeholder in Afghanistan and is closer to the Taliban than anyone else. The rare regional spymaster meeting hosted by Islamabad was show of power besides making others understand the evolving strategic situation in the war-torn country. There is no elegant way to lose a war and Washington should set aside its pride and work towards regional peace, especially to avoid a humanitarian crisis from unfolding. The situation calls for a robust Pakistan-US cooperation.