US analyst sees renewed role for Pakistan in Afghan peace deal

Published February 8, 2021
Former adviser to the Obama administration, Dr Barnett R Rubin, sees a ‘reborn’ role for Pakistan in US President Biden’s review of the US-Afghan deal. — Photo courtesy Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
Former adviser to the Obama administration, Dr Barnett R Rubin, sees a ‘reborn’ role for Pakistan in US President Biden’s review of the US-Afghan deal. — Photo courtesy Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

LAHORE: Former adviser to the Obama administration, Dr Barnett R Rubin, sees a ‘reborn’ role for Pakistan in US President Biden’s review of the US-Afghan deal.

“Given Biden’s call to review, a time has come when Pakistan is supposed to play its anchoring role in the US-Afghan Taliban peace deal with the support of other regional powers by re-collaborating the implementation of agreement on rescheduling of US troops withdrawal, return of prisoners of war, ceasefire, UN sanctions on Taliban and future political roadmap that leads to an interim government in Afghanistan,” said the head of Centre on International Cooperation, New York University.

Foreseeing that the newly-formed Biden administration is not going to undo the Afghan peace deal, Mr Rubin proposed a “brief pause” to allow all stakeholders to renegotiate “in a spirit that benchmarks and other set goals envisioned in the agreements stay completely intact”, he said during a webinar held under the auspices of Soch, a think tank, on Sunday. “It would be better for any political transition to take place when American troops are in place.”

“This is the stage when Pakistan and the rest of the region come in. The Taliban are likely to resist a delay in US troops pullout. If the US reaches an agreement with key countries Pakistan, China, Russia and eventually Iran after resuming the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or US-Iran nuclear deal and all regional players have a unified position to have a stable transition with US troops withdrawal, it is more likely that the Taliban will agree,” he observed.

Soch Chairman Muhammad Mehdi said that Pakistan has a game-changing role in Afghanistan and the peace deal and it is a matter of concern if the new US administration overlooks the country’s apprehension about Indian involvement and the Pakistani Taliban factor in Afghanistan. He did not see Washington engaging New Delhi on the Kashmir issue, as Islamabad had itself put the issue on the backburner since 2019.

Senior columnist Saleem Safi regretted that the US-Taliban deal is not meant to benefit the Afghans, who continue to suffer human casualties in the war-torn country.

President Biden is supposed to play an effective role in engendering regional and international peace by exercising a realistic and pragmatic approach, said senior columnists Altaf Hussain Qureshi and Hafeezullah Niazi. They said Biden should be looking to reconstitute good relations with Pakistan.

Former additional foreign secretary Nazir Hussain said Pakistan would advocate for a reset in its ties with the US. “We believe that the Biden administration will support Pakistan’s efforts and help resolve the longstanding issue of Kashmir, which is the source of instability in the region.”

He stressed that the Biden administration would go beyond just the defence and security-oriented relationship with India, which meant New Delhi would face tough questions in the coming years.

Under the Biden administration, there won’t be a radical change in foreign policy vis-a-vis Pakistan, said senior scholars Dr Amjad Magsi, Shabir Hassan from the Punjab University and Qamar Cheema from Numl.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2021

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