There is perhaps a breakthrough in the stalemate between the US and Pakistan relationship since President Joe Biden came into power with the US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s arrival in this country. The US diplomat is said to arrive on Thursday and while not much details of the reason behind her arrival have been made public, she is said to discuss key Afghan issues and aim to the bridge the gap between the two former allies.
Since the fall of Kabul and rapid withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, Islamabad and Washington have not had any formal talks among them except from scattered back-channel talks. Last month on the sidelines of the 76th UNGA in New York, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The two discussed the change of guard in Afghanistan and the importance of Pakistan-US cooperation. However, Wendy’s arrival marks ‘the highest-level US visit so far under the Biden administration.’ But it is also said to tiptoe around the same discussion. It is thus, unclear what the US wants to achieve by sending its top diplomat to Islamabad for talks with senior officials when its other diplomats have tried to scapegoat Pakistan for America’s own failure in its longest war. It must be remembered that a bill seeking to impose sanctions on Taliban as well as countries that allegedly supported them, such as, Pakistan, was moved in the US Senate just past week. In fact, last month Blinken had also used the ‘do-more’ approach towards Pakistan during his first congressional address following the Afghan imbroglio.
Conflicting statements from US top diplomats have only further complicated US-Pakistan relations. This is not to say that Wendy’s arrival in Islamabad is not paramount, especially considering that it comes right after her visit to New Delhi, but it is important for the US to strengthen its policy towards Pakistan. According to media reports, Wendy is said to push Islamabad to delay its recognition of the Taliban regime until they have an inclusive government, ensure human rights, allow girls’ education along with allowing women to work. But this approach only holds America’s interests as priority without realizing that Pakistan is faced with security challenges if it waits on engaging with the Taliban regime. The US should instead work towards matters of mutual interest, and primarily for peace in Afghanistan and beyond.