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HomeNewsUS must renew engagement with Pakistan against Taliban, study suggests

US must renew engagement with Pakistan against Taliban, study suggests

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The US Institute of Peace (USIP) has released a study advocating for renewed US engagement with Pakistan to address terrorism in the region. This approach aims to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for extremist groups following the US troop withdrawal on 30th August 2021, which led to the Taliban’s resurgence and resulting political and economic instability.

The report acknowledges the collective trauma within US policymakers from the Afghanistan war and the complexities of long-term counterterrorism efforts. It calls for a more nuanced strategy rather than large-scale troop deployments, suggesting the use of drone strikes and shows of force to pressure the Taliban.

Laurel Miller, co-chair of the study group and former US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, highlighted the distrust many US officials hold towards Pakistan. “You’ve got a lot of people currently serving at the highest levels of the US government who have a strong distaste for Pakistan based on experience during the 20 years in Afghanistan,” she said. “There’s a strong feeling of Pakistan having been disingenuous, to say the least, with the United States.”

The study also notes a decline in US intelligence capabilities since the Afghanistan withdrawal and emphasizes the importance of intelligence sharing and joint operations with Pakistan. Past tensions, particularly accusations of Pakistan’s double game with the Taliban, are acknowledged, with a call for a forward-looking approach focused on regional stability.

Recognising Pakistan’s geographical proximity to Afghanistan, the report underscores the necessity of US-Pakistan cooperation to protect US interests in the region. “But there are certain immutable realities, which include that Pakistan is next door to Afghanistan, which currently is a sanctuary for terrorist groups,” Miller stated. “So I think there’s just no choice other than to have a kind of relationship with Pakistan that enables the US to protect its own interests in the region.”

The study also addresses US policy towards Pakistan influenced by its relationship with India. It calls for clear communication regarding the consequences for harbouring militants who attack India. The report highlights Pakistan’s commitment to regional peace and preventing such attacks.

The composition of the study group, including former US ambassadors to Pakistan and Afghanistan, indicates a growing awareness within US foreign policy circles of the need for renewed cooperation. Despite the Biden administration’s current lack of interest in engaging Islamabad, Pakistan remains hopeful for a productive partnership focused on shared security interests.

The other co-chair of the report was Michael Nagata, a retired army lieutenant general with counterterrorism experience. The group also included Anne Patterson and Michael McKinley, former US ambassadors to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and prominent scholars.

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