Has Mattis really found the common ground?

  • The give and take

En route to Pakistan, Mattis had told reporters he would not use pressure as a tactic and instead try to find common ground with Pakistan to work together. The two sides apparently reached a common ground leading to a tradeoff. The phrasing adopted ensured that it offended neither side’s sensibilities. In case both abide by their commitments, this would add to mutual trust which is currently in short supply on both sides. The statement issued by the US embassy in Pakistan after the conclusion of Mattis’ talks with the country’s civil and military leadership recognises Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war against terrorism and emphasises the vital role it can play in collaboration with the US and others in Afghanistan to facilitate the peace process. This intro serves as a preamble to the give-and-take.

Haqqani network finds no specific mention in the statement. Again, instead of the earlier demand of action against the terrorists’ safe havens from where they supposedly launch attacks inside Afghanistan, the statement calls upon Pakistan to redouble its efforts to confront militants and terrorists ‘operating within the country’. It is in fact the same old demand phrased in a more sophisticated way. According to the ISPR Pakistan has agreed to ‘look into the possibility of miscreants exploiting Pakistan’s hospitality to Afghan refugees to the detriment of our Afghan brothers.’ Earlier Pakistan would normally precondition any US demand for action against presumed terrorist sanctuaries with real time intelligence.

Mattis assured Pakistan that the US was ready to play its role in addressing its legitimate concerns. These in fact include not only the Afghan refugees living in Pakistan and the safe havens set up by TTP or Jamaatul Ahrar across the border but also India’s increasing role in the neighbouring country encouraged and supported by none other than the Trump administration itself. One will have to wait to see how Washington moves to address Pakistan’s major concerns. For the time being CIA chief Mike Pompeo would do well to direct his threats to some other country.



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