Pakistan cannot be ignored for longby Rupert Stone / February 14, 2017 / Leave a comment
Pakistan, though sometimes ridiculed as a failed state, is a critically important country, with the world’s sixth-largest population and fastest-growing nuclear arsenal. Furthermore, it is key to the United States’ strategic interests in South and Central Asia, whether that be winding down the war in neighbouring Afghanistan, combatting terrorism, or preventing the escalation of hostilities with Pakistan’s arch-rival and fellow nuclear power, India, over the disputed region of Kashmir.
But Donald Trump said little about Pakistan (or Afghanistan) during the US presidential election and his administration is yet to articulate a strategy towards the region. Last year he had a bizarrely enthusiastic phone call with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which was heavy on flattery and light on substance. And last week General John Nicholson, US commander in Afghanistan, told Congress there would be a “holistic review” of America’s approach to Pakistan. But it is unclear how long that will take, and what the results may be.
An effective policy is urgently needed. First, because Pakistan is crucial to resolving the disastrous war in Afghanistan. Trump has pledged to keep American troops in the country, where the Kabul government is steadily losing territory and casualties hit record highs last year, according to a new UN report. It is assumed that Pakistan backs the US’ main adversaries, the Afghan Taliban, by granting them sanctuary across the border. If the Taliban is to be defeated, then Pakistan will have to stop supporting them and help force a truce.