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Editorial: Pompeo visit to Pakistan

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Pakistan on Wednesday for talks with government functionaries to galvanize fraying bilateral relations with Islamabad and reiterate Washington’s demands for the country to fight militants there and in Afghanistan. Pompeo later left for New Delhi for another key visit.

Pompeo’s visit comes a few days after the U.S. cancelled $300 million in aid, which has enraged Pakistani officials. The aid cut was a force majeure by U.S. administration as part of a play to pressure Pakistan to cave to persistent demands to do more in countering insurgency and terrorist groups.

On one hand, this modus operandi could yield tangible results and make Pakistani establishment bow down to Trump administration; and on the other, Pakistan’s new prime minister Imran Khan seems to take a different direction from that of his predecessors who had been increasingly unfaithful and had deceitfully claimed to having been fighting insurgents in Pakistan – where Afghan administration has strong conviction tens of militant groups are feted and trained.

After he took over Pakistan’s premiership, Imran Khan said he would open a new chapter of foreign policy with Afghanistan and rival Pakistan, seeking to improve strained ties.

The White House has always applied caution in dealing with Islamabad’s shenanigans; there might be plenty of reasons, but above all, Pakistan provides a safe supply route for U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Not only that, the majority of its military equipment passes through Pakistan into Afghanistan.

Central Asia where Russia has influence may also provide a supply route to U.S. military shipments, but it is costly and dangerous. And if Pakistan decided to retaliate the cancellation of American aid by closing land supply chains, those resources would have to be diverted through Central Asia and Russian influence there could compromise the route and U.S. sensitive military materials and equipment.

In Pakistan, the leverage remains with Pakistan’s most powerful institution, its military – a vicious bulwark against any attempt to restore peace in Afghanistan. They could also hamper a reviewed effort of Washington to launch a peace process in Afghanistan that will require some level of Pakistani assistance to succeed.

Pompeo’s visit coincides with a recent announcement of the Taliban about their inclination to start direct talks with the Afghans government. Although, the militant group has long refused to enter peace negotiations with Kabul, there seems to be a connection between Taliban’s brusque change of mind.

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