On December 3, 2018, the Ministry of External Affairs of Pakistan issued a statement saying that in a letter to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, President Trump had said that Pakistan's support and assistance were needed in resolving the Afghan issue. President Trump also expressed his willingness to improve US-Pakistan relations, emphasizing that the United States and Pakistan should seek opportunities, strengthen cooperation and rebuild partnership.
Reading this piece of news, I feel it is a dramatic change. Just two weeks ago, President Trump “bombarded” Pakistan through social media, gratuitously blaming Pakistan for "taking money without doing anything" and declaring a moratorium on "aid" to Pakistan. Therefore, many people believe that the United States is a incredible country and Trump is a capricious president. This is another explanation showing that the American pragmatism is very strong. When you are needed, they will build partnership with you and when you are not needed, they will abandon you immediately.
Why did President Trump suddenly write to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan? There are mainly two direct reasons. First, several US soldiers were killed in Afghanistan some days ago. Second, the US President's Special Envoy for Peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, would go to Pakistan to discuss the Afghanistan issue. So the United States wants to ease the relationship with Pakistan and wishes that Pakistan would coordinate on the Afghan issue.
At present, the situation in Afghanistan is not very good for the United States. After Trump came to power, the American troops in Afghanistan have been increased and there are now 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Different from the past, now the U.S. troops in Afghanistan basically stay in heavily guarded barracks. The U.S. troops mainly adopt "indiscriminate bombing tactics" and the indiscriminate bombing has resulted in a large number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. Therefore, the hatred for the United States by ordinary Afghans is growing stronger and stronger. In recent years, the Afghan Taliban has constantly strengthened its control over Afghanistan. According to media reports, the Afghan government currently controls or has influence in only 55.5% of the country.
In August, 2017, President Trump announced a new strategy for Afghanistan and its core content is to promote peace through war. However, after more than one year, the Afghan Taliban is getting stronger and stronger. What makes Trump worry now is that in order to win the presidential election for the second term after two years, he has to get more votes. So, his new strategy for Afghanistan must achieve effective results. What makes Trump even more anxious is that now Russia is beginning to re-engage in Afghan affairs and trying to adopt the Syrian model to play a greater role in the Afghan peace process.
Pakistan is an important neighbour of Afghanistan. Pakistan and Afghanistan have very close ties, especially in the border tribal areas. Whether it is the war against Soviet Union or the war against terrorism in Afghanistan, whether it is the air and ground operations at the beginning of the century or the new strategy to promote peace through war amid Afghan peace process, the United States can achieve nothing without Pakistan's cooperation.
Therefore, the United States must clearly recognize Pakistan's important role on the Afghanistan issue. At the same time, the United States should allow other countries to have different policies and respect Pakistan's policy on Afghanistan issue, which might be different from that of the United States. Besides，the United States must seriously acknowledge Pakistan's tremendous human sacrifices and economic losses for the US war on terror. In fact, the so-called "aid" provided by the United States to Pakistan is actually part of the compensation paid by the U.S. military for the use of Pakistani military facilities. The United States owes too much to Pakistan.
On the issue of the peace process in Afghanistan, all parties concerned should strengthen communication and cooperation. President Trump stops unjustified blame on Pakistan and instead, he now wishes to improve relations with Pakistan. This should be appreciated. But I hope the U.S. side will not change all the time. We should respect ourselves and also respect others. Normal and healthy US-Pakistan relations are good for the overall international anti-terrorism situation, early reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan and peace and stability in the region.
Cheng Xizhong, Special Commentator of China Economic Net, Senior Fellow of Chahar Institute, former Defense Attache in South Asian Countries, former UN Senior Military Observer