News / Asia

Afghanistan Deadline Pushes Pakistan, US Closer

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (R) talks with U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James B. Cunningham (C) and Marine General John R. Allen, commander of International Security Assistance Force, upon arriving at Kabul International Airport, December 12, 2012.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (R) talks with U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James B. Cunningham (C) and Marine General John R. Allen, commander of International Security Assistance Force, upon arriving at Kabul International Airport, December 12, 2012.
Sharon Behn
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in Kabul on a previously unannounced visit Wednesday to discuss the U.S. presence in Afghanistan after international combat troops complete their withdrawal in 2014. American, Afghan and Pakistani officials have recently ramped up talks on regional security and agreed to cooperate on defense priorities. Fear of the consequences of failure in Afghanistan appears to be pushing the sides closer together.
 
Faced with the potential of increased violence in Afghanistan after international combat troops leave in 2014, Pakistan and the United States appear to be working more closely to ensure stability in the region.
 
Pakistani Senator Mushahid Hussain said a recent flurry of high level talks between Washington and Islamabad means relations between the two regarding Afghanistan are back on track.
 
"Pakistan is fully in the loop, the United States is now trying to ensure that Pakistan should be part of the process of reconciliation," said Hussain.

Pakistan's military, which in the past bet on militant groups to maintain influence in Afghanistan, now also appears to be focusing on its relationship with the United States to strengthen its position vis-a-vis its neighbor.
 
Simbal Khan of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington said there is a clear understanding in Islamabad that if the security situation worsens in Afghanistan, the impact on Pakistan will be significant.
 
"For Pakistanis I think it is a better deal to kind of engage with the U.S., and push forward the agenda," said Khan. "There is no perfect fit, there are divergences, strong divergences on Afghanistan still, but I think there is a middle space in between where the both sides have moved and where they can both cooperate moving forward."

The post-2014 U.S. plan for Afghanistan envisions a substantial presence of U.S. personnel there to help Afghanistan's struggling security forces. Analysts believe that presence will include a strong counter-terrorism element led by U.S. special operations forces and the CIA.
 
Many Taliban on the U.S. target list are hiding along the border with Pakistan. Khan said Pakistan fears that failure to bring the Taliban into a peace process prior to the drawdown of international troops could mean increased Taliban attacks. That, in turn, could trigger U.S. retaliation against Taliban sanctuaries inside Pakistan.
 
"That could lead us again to a point where relations between U.S. and Pakistan become worse and Pakistan actually becomes a target for counter-terror strikes rather than a partner," said Khan. "This is very important, Pakistan - I think what we are worrying about is that we become less of a partner as far as counter-terrorism is concerned and more of a target in a post-14 scenario."

According to a December 2012 Pentagon report, the insurgency in Afghanistan continues to benefit from sanctuaries in Pakistan.
 
But U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in the past harshly critical of Islamabad's failure to pursue militants on its soil, said this week the U.S. was encouraged by Pakistan's willingness limit the terrorist threat within the country.

Analyst Imtiaz Gul said both the international community and Islamabad have realized they cannot move forward on Afghanistan without each other.
 
"There is no way around Pakistan and Pakistan also has realized it's time to offer the so-called olive branch to U.S. as well as the Afghans because this is the time to hit - the iron is hot and perhaps they can extract some medium to long-term strategic gain out of their partnership, their willingness to work towards reconciliation," Gul said

To that end, Pakistan has responded to Afghan requests and released several Taliban militants, and held top-level meetings with the Afghan Foreign Ministry. Lawmakers from both countries are also in bilateral talks.
 
But analysts caution that the relationship between all three countries remains fragile and at any time the cost-benefit calculation could change.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Troops Depart

Afghans are grappling with how exodus will affect country's fragile economy More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs