Washington: The US should build on Pakistan`s fresh willingness to co-operate against the Afghan Taliban, especially in the wake of the capture of deputy commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Karachi 10 days ago, feels an expert on South Asian affairs.
But according to Lisa Curtis, Senior Research Fellow for South Asia in the Asian Studies Centre at The Heritage Foundation, Washington should keep in mind that Pakistan is in all probability re-evaluating its own strategy on Afghanistan and how to counter Indian influence in the region.
Curtis says in her article that over the last eight years, Pakistani policy toward the Afghan Taliban leadership has been inconsistent and unpredictable, and this has frustrated the Obama administration.
The frustration is reflected in the increased reliance on drone missile strikes to eliminate Taliban and al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan`s tribal areas, she adds.
Until recently, the Obama administration appeals to Pakistani leaders to target militant groups like the Jalaluddin Haqqani network in North Waziristan and Afghan Taliban leaders in other parts of the country had been rebuffed.
Pakistani military officials argued that they had their hands full and were reluctant to open another front against the militants. Pakistani officials have also conveyed their interest in maintaining links to the Afghan Taliban leadership as a way to maintain influence in that country should the US and coalition forces depart Afghanistan prematurely.
Baradar’s arrest, Curtis says, will help re-establish Pakistan`s counter-terrorism credentials with Washington.
“The Pakistan military leadership may also be seeking to ensure it will have a role in determining the future direction of Afghanistan,” she says.
Curtis, however, adds that Washington needs to move cautiously in encouraging signs of fresh cooperation from Pakistan.
“The US must remain clear-headed about Pakistani goals in the region and accept that Pakistani interests often diverge from those of the US. While the US seeks to prevent Afghanistan from again serving as a safe haven for international terrorists, Pakistan`s primary goal is to curb Indian influence in Afghanistan,” Curtis says.
“Pakistan`s fixation on India should give pause to any US policymakers considering Pakistan`s expressed interest in brokering peace talks with the Taliban,” she adds.
“The US must continue to assert a vision for the region that strengthens those who support democracy, human rights, and religious pluralism and weakens those who adhere to destructive, extremist ideologies. The US should back with diplomatic and financial support Afghan efforts to pursue reconciliation on the ground inside Afghanistan and at the same time work with Pakistan to squeeze the Taliban leadership that is based there and still closely linked to al Qaeda,” she concludes.