Monday July 22, 2024

Imran holds key to honourable US exit from Afghanistan

By Sabir Shah
November 27, 2018

LAHORE: Participants at a recent 91-minute long debate held under the aegis of the Washington DC-based Brookings Institute’s Center for Middle East Policy on “The first 100 days of Imran Khan’, had viewed that the sitting Pakistani Premier held the key to an honourable American withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The panelists at the Brookings Institute, which focuses on the United States' involvement in the Middle East, had asserted that Pakistan was an extremely important ally for the White House and the world both, as it was the fastest growing nuclear state with 300 plus nukes in its arsenal, which was more than what the United Kingdom currently possessed.

The debate participants reiterated the United States should consider Premier Imran Khan as an opportunity to retreat honourably from Afghanistan, adding an American invitation for the Pakistani head of government might well be on the anvil.

Here follow the pointers from the views of famous author Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official for 30 years and a renowned professor at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies:

The United States cannot get out of Afghanistan till Pakistan was part of the equation and hence Imran Khan was the United States’ ticket in this context. It is easy to be critical on Pakistani democracy but fact remains that it is one of the very few Muslim nations who hold ballot exercises and have some democratic norms, contrary to the situation in Saudi Arabia, Iran, modern Turkey and the Middle East etc.

Pakistan has a relative free media, though not very responsible at times. Although it is not easy to publish to publish anything against the establishment, you can still write and print a lot.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has not always been perfect and ousted former Premier Nawaz Sharif can tell you a lot more on the functioning of the Pakistani apex court.

Pakistan is now developing tactical nuclear weapons.

It sponsors and harbours various terrorist organisations. Although these entities have changed names, they are still operating with the same fundamentalist agendas. The relationship of these organisations with the institutions also remains unchanged.

Bruce Riedel, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute, a staffer at the American National Security Council and an adviser to four US presidents on Middle East and South Asian issues in the White House, had further opined:

Pakistan is the second largest Muslim country after Indonesia. It has a large Shia minority, though the exact number of people hailing from this sect is not known.

Every American President since John Kennedy has witnessed difficult times dealing with Pakistan. The Trump administration has a set view about Pakistan.

Trump thinks Pakistan is an unsavoury partner of the United States.

The incumbent US president thinks two of his predecessors have dished out $33 billion and is very critical about continuous Pakistani support for the Taliban.

Trump has halted American assistance to Pakistan, which is a hollow gesture.

The United States has long been providing training to Pakistani officers, which was a good step as one could gauge the thinking patterns of future Pakistani high-ups.

Pakistan has been the biggest beneficiary of such training programmes, but now the Trump regime has stopped this initiative for the Pakistani officials.

Of late, Trump has been pondering over finding ways to get out of Afghanistan, and has been discussing this issue with his current Secretary of Defense, General (R) Jim Mattis, and his Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.

Trump wants to exit Afghanistan in a way that neither do the Taliban take over the war-ridden country after the US troops are withdrawn, nor does any civil war takes place there.

Author of books like “What we won: America’s secret war in Afghanistan,” the widely-read “John F. Kennedy’s forgotten crisis: Tibet, the CIA, and Sino-Indian war” and the “Kings and Presidents: Saudi Arabia and the United States since Franking Delano Roosevelt,” Bruce Riedel had maintained:

As far as Imran Khan is concerned, he comes across as one of the more anti-American Pakistani politicians.

The US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, even visited Pakistan and discussed matters with the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who is certainly a skillful diplomat.

Stories from Pakistani Press reveal Imran Khan toured Saudi Arabia twice after taking over and asked for US$4 billion. He got nothing on his first tour, but then dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder took place and Muhammad bin Salman found himself short of friends.

Imran Khan thus succeeded in bagging $6 billion instead.

The Pak-Saudi ties were not good for some times, especially after Islamabad had refused to send troops to Yemen despite Saudi insistence. Nawaz Sharif took the issue to Parliament, which unanimously voted against sending troops to Yemen.

Only a banned outfit chief was in favour of sending troops because he is financed by most important Middle Eastern country.

Imran Khan has basically a $6 billion aid from Saudi Arabia through tactful diplomacy.

The Chinese need Imran Khan and the United States might soon be knocking at his door too!

President Obama did not have a Pakistan policy.

Donald Trump’s nasty tweets cannot change Pakistan’s policy on Afghanistan and the Taliban.

Meanwhile, Madiha Afzal, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of book “Pakistan under siege,” said cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan had struggled for decades before holding reins of the country.

Here follow some of Madiha Afzal’s views on Imran Khan and Pakistan:

For over 15 years, the Pakistani public thought Imran Khan was politically naïve. In political arena, he was not treated with great respect by his compatriots.

Imran emerged as a strong opposition politician ion 2011, though through dirty politics as he staged sit-ins and organized anti-government protests frequently. He was heading the third largest Pakistani political entity by 2011. He finally grabbed power in July 2018, though his political adversaries feel he had establishment’s support behind him.

Imran ran an anti-corruption campaign and provided social services in health and education through his philanthropic organisations.

After assuming charge as country’s Prime Minister, he talked about issues like malnutrition among kids, and maternal health care etc.

No matter how he is there, his agenda was certainly popular among those exercised their right of franchise in his favour. He enjoys support of pro-establishment quarters.

Imran has had tough 100 days in office. He had to deal with a lot of mess. He had promised sun and moon in his election agenda. He had a lot on his plate to tackle. He took austerity measures by auctioning cars and buffaloes in Prime Minister’s House, though he was ridiculed by his political foes.

Imran’s government has now certainly matured and come of age. He wants to stabilize the debt-ridden economy, grossly mismanaged by his predecessors, and had to undertake tours to Saudi Arabia, UAE and China etc to seek financial support to avert a looming Balance of Payments crisis.

The CPEC had certainly made the country’s debt surge.

He managed to seek $6 billion from Saudi Arabia after the Jamal Khashoggi crisis had engulfed the oil-rich kingdom.

It is unclear as to what truly transpired in China, but Imran has pledged he will go to the IMF for the last-ever bailout package. He has promised 10 million jobs and five million homes for his countrymen, but for that, revenues are needed and money can only be generated through tax reforms.

He has got pro-Establishment technocrats assisting him on this, besides enjoying expert services from professors at Harvard and Stanford universities.