IRSHAD SALIM — Pakistan’s newly elected Premier Imran Khan may have succeeded in throwing a curve ball inside the Beltway with his narratives and buzzwords the anti status quo thought leaders there have been waiting for to antithesis Afghanistan’s ongoing nightmarish dollars-vs-tradeoffs calculus–and ironically making Trump finds his favorite burger–that is getting out of the war–back on his dinner table.
Timing as they say matters, and therefore Khan’s ascension to power appears to sync with the undercurrent wishing list. After more than a trillion Dollar American taxpayers’ money spent on an unwinnable 17-year war–the longest in US history–President Donald Trump has predictably (to those who have been following his style) taken an unpredictable (to those who are not trending his moves) U-turn much closer to the cul-de-sac where other stakeholders in the region have parked their takes.
And as expected, Trump’s tactics to “cut a deal” as compared to “shoot to kill” practiced by his predecessors seems to be working–with some hiccups and cautionary “go slow” drive though–while giving the impression that the US is in a hurry to pull out.
How Trump will monetize this foreign policy situation what Mr. Khan could or would extract would be a darn good study though for analysts and historians across both sides of the Atlantic.
PM Khan has been articulating his thesis on the Afghan war just as a 4-wheel drive SUV would waggishly climb up the slopey, sloppy, roughened hillside top. But it eventually gets there.
And just as the football season has begun in the US, the playoffs have begun here too–the two teams Quarterbacks have their eyeballs fixed on the sport. Khan’s 10 latest narratives appear to enable the warmth needed in the cold wintry weather sport in Washington DC–and with firewood, mix of chill factored breeze, and fireplace-styled relaxing ambiance with controlled heating up the Hill, the end game seems to have begun..
Two upcoming events though add fuel to the firewood warming the fireplace: The Afghan presidential election due in mid-April, and more importantly, the potential spring offensive the Afghan Taliban could be preparing for—they are already much in control in more than 52 percent of the strife-laden landscape. Both sides have however gotten it well though that either can’t win. So it’s time to go head-to-head and knuckle it out in the middle.
This is what PM Khan and Pakistan’s battle-hardened military have been telling the Quarterbacks for quite sometime. But hey, it wasn’t the Super Bowl, so it didn’t matter–until it’s turning out to be one no one wants to play or watch or guzzle beer to and with no cheerleaders to soften the macho hysteria inside the stadium. Hmm.
Here are the 10 narratives of ‘Taliban Khan’ I see finding traction in the US now–as Christmas approaches and search for the best, the most poignant or the most hilarious Shamrock gift continues, Afghan peace roadmap could be on the burner.
1. Pakistan is not US’ hired gun anymore–— given money to fight someone else’s war. We can only ally with US for peace, not war.
2. If you did not agree with the U.S. policy, you were [thought to be] anti-American. That’s an ‘imperialistic approach’. I was dubbed ‘Taliban Khan”.
3. Pakistan wants a ‘proper relationship’ with Washington.
4. From Pakistan’s point of view, we do not want the Americans to leave Afghanistan in a hurry like they did in 1989.
5. On Trump-Khan Twitter spat: “It was just setting the record right. The exchange was about being blamed for deeply flawed U.S. policies — the military approach to Afghanistan.
6. There are no sanctuaries in Pakistan. We have 2.7 million Afghan refugees. Our border between Pakistan and Afghanistan has the greatest amount of surveillance. The US has satellites and drones. These people crossing would be seen.
7. Peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest. We will do everything.
8. I talked for years about how there was no military solution in Afghanistan, and they called me “Taliban Khan.” Now I’m happy that everyone realizes there is only a political solution.
9. Our relationship with China is not one-dimensional. We want a similar relationship with US.
10. Exxon has come back to Pakistan after 27 years, and they’re doing a big exploration for us. PepsiCo has put extra investments because we are a clean government. We won’t be asking them for money (kickbacks).
(The writer is a business & construction consultant, analyst, and Editor-in-Chief of PKonweb and DesPardes presently based in Islamabad)