The hard task


Pakistan is making efforts to break the stalemate in Afghanistan caused by the suspension of talks between the Khalilzad-led US team of negotiators and the Afghan Taliban. While the USA appeared to be at the cusp of reaching a deal, it couldn’t be signed when US President Donald Trump, apparently disturbed by the Taliban’s jubilation over killing a US soldier, called off the talks. Another version ascribed his refusal to sign the deal to a perception that the brokered agreement could not be presented during the forthcoming Presidential elections as a victory for Trump.
Pakistan is required by the Afghan Taliban to persuade a mercurial Trump to sign the agreement. President Trump on the other hand wants Prime Minister Imran Khan to convince the highly determined and ruthless Afghan Taliban to agree to a ceasefire and enter into talks with the Afghan government. This will require Pakistan to motivate both to enter into a give-and-take. What will matter is how much clout Pakistan possesses with both sides.
While President Trump has promised to bring back US troops from the 18-year-long Afghan war, he also wants an agreement in hand that he can show to the US voters as evidence of US victory. The Afghan Taliban on the other would sign no document that by any flight of imagination could be interpreted as an instrument of surrender. Despite US insistence, they have refused to end the military operations aimed at capturing more territory while they continue to carry out terrorist attack to harass the Afghan administration. Meanwhile they have also refused to enter into talks with the Ghani government that they consider an American stooge.
Foreign Minister Qureshi hopes that the Taliban could be won over with the help of Pakistan’s agencies which may not be in consonance with the past events. The agencies hope that PM Imran Khan can win over President Trump, an equally problematic feat. This explains why the Foreign Minister and ISI chief jointly received the Taliban delegation at the Foreign Office. How much synergy both are capable of generating will become clear in weeks and months to come.