WASHINGTON: Key US senators, who visited Pakistan and Afghanistan this week, appear divided on how to win the Afghan war: some prefer a military victory before negotiations, others seek a political solution.

There is, however, one common thread in their statements published in the US media on Saturday: Pakistan needs to do more to force the Taliban to accept a political solution.

Senator John McCain, who headed this five-member US Senate delegation, said the visit convinced him that the Unites States needs to have a new strategy to win in Afghanistan and that “the strongest nation on Earth should be able to win this conflict.”

But Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the two Democrats in the team, stressed the need for focusing on a political solution and accused the Trump administration of neglecting diplomatic efforts to win this war. She also urged Pakistan to do more.

“While they have taken positive steps, we told Pakistani leaders they must do more to eliminate safe havens and terrorist groups in the region,” she tweeted.

The Senate delegation, which met senior Pakistani and Afghan officials as well as commanders of the US-led Nato forces in Afghanistan, is expected to share its observations with the Trump administration. The delegation also visited South Waziristan.

Senator Warren, a rising Democratic star who is considered a serious candidate for the next presidential election, said she also discussed Pakistan’s role in the war against terrorism when with the army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, when she met him in the Pakistani capital last week.

“I met with Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Bajwa to discuss the critical role Pakistan must play in countering terrorism in the region,” she tweeted. She also talked about the delegation’s July 3 visit to South Waziristan.

“In South Waziristan, Army and local leaders showed us how USAID’s development projects are making a real difference in people’s lives,” she tweeted.

Senator McCain, who told reporters in Kabul last week that the United States should reconsider its relations with Pakistan if it does not stop supporting the Haqqani network, is now demanding a substantial increase in the US military presence in Afghanistan. Senator Lindsey Graham, also a Republican and a former presidential candidate like Mr McCain, supported this demand.

He said the old strategy of a gradual decrease in the US military presence in Afghanistan did not work because it did not focus on defeating the Taliban.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2017