Well hello, folks.
There is something astir in the undergrowth of Pakistan-American relations and just for a change, it may not be bad news. Matters Am-Pak have been at a low ebb for most of the Trump presidency. America has cut its contribution to the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) and a rolling verbal undertone laced with negativity has come in this direction from the White House. With the Trumpian tendency to make up foreign policy both on the hoof and on the back of a very small envelope, one area of consistency has been the attitude towards Pakistan, thus it is with a slightly quizzical raising of an eyebrow that we note the latest dispatch from Trump Island.
On Thursday 3rd January President Trump said that he desired to meet the new leadership of Pakistan and “will be doing that in the not-too-distant future”. There is neither date nor context for this but he is now on record as wanting to meet ‘the folks from the new leadership’ and that this was going to be happening in the ‘not too distant future.’ Despite this seemingly positive message it came attached to the accusation of ‘housing the enemy’ and ‘helping’ them so perhaps we must not expect a cosy fireside chat, and these were held up as the reason why the $1.3 billion CSF monies (which were anyway in arrears) were axed.
Notwithstanding the stick, the carrot is still interesting. The US acknowledges that Pakistan has a role to play in the various futures that are on the table in Afghanistan, a country that Trump would dearly like to withdraw American troops from. The Minister for Information and Broadcasting said that improved relations with the US were important in terms of regional stability as well as stability in Afghanistan, and with talks with the Taliban poised at a position of greater positivity than at any time in recent years we are at something of a crux. There are elements in the mix that point towards less-bad (rather than favourable) outcomes which in turn could be the building blocks on which enduring and sustainable stability may be based.
This is not idle speculation or fantasy. Pakistan has rolled back though not completely defeated the terrorist threat. It remains but reduced and weakened. A partial victory is better than no victory and the country is experiencing a period of relative peace. A re-set of relations with Washington – if it happens – could be an event happening at the right time for all of the players including India. India has a place in the game having invested heavily in Afghanistan, and the recent moves by Khalilzad seem to be bringing together the ends of several threads and perhaps that is why Trump was going on record about his ‘folks’ meeting our ‘folks’. There is a lot to play for. Fingers crossed.