WASHINGTON - Claiming that the US and Pakistan have opposing goals for Afghanistan, an American expert on South Asia has asked President Barack Obama to look beyond Islamabad and towards other like-minded partners in the region to stem terrorism and help stabilise the war-torn nation.
“Unless Pakistan demonstrates a willingness to actively squeeze Taliban insurgents on its soil and use its leverage to bring them to compromise with the US and Afghan authorities, the US should consider alternative policy options to stem terrorism in the region,” Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation, said.
In her latest article, Curtis said the US and NATO partners can look beyond Pakistan and toward other like-minded partners in the region to help stabilise Afghanistan. “While it is in America’s interest to encourage stability in Pakistan, it is also vital to US national security that international terrorists are rooted out of both Afghanistan and Pakistan,” she said.
“Washington and Islamabad have opposing goals for Afghanistan that can no longer be brushed under the carpet,” Curtis said adding that Pakistani officials often claim to their US counterparts that they lack capacity to take on terrorist sanctuaries within their borders, but these claims are questionable and need to be tested.
The Obama administration, she said, has sought to include Pakistan in its efforts to reconcile with the Taliban, even though Pakistan continues to serve as a sanctuary for Taliban and Haqqani network militants fighting coalition forces in Afghanistan.
“Islamabad views the sanctuaries as a bargaining chip to force its way into the negotiations process. Washington needs to make clear that Islamabad’s role in the talks depends on its willingness to use its leverage with Taliban insurgents to bring them to compromise,” she said.
Curtis said the US should also communicate that while it is open to engaging the Taliban, it is not desperate to do so and has other options it can pursue.
“Political reconciliation is desirable but only if it contributes to the goal of ensuring that Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for global terrorists,” she said.
“But if Pakistan is unwilling to use its leverage to help bring genuine peace to Afghanistan, there are other policies – aside from pursuing reconciliation with the Taliban – that the US can pursue,” she added.