Stimson in the News

Joshua White’s commentary on the complexity of Pak-Afghan relations is published in Foreign Policy

in Program

Islamabad’s (Charm) Offensive

Talk to most any Afghan, and you’ll
get an earful about how Pakistan has treated its smaller neighbor: the use of
proxies, the tendency to see Afghan Pashtuns as pliant Pakistanis-in-waiting
rather than independent political actors, and the persistent fixation on the Indian
presence in Afghanistan. These criticisms, while often legitimate, overlook
what has been a relatively sophisticated and restrained diplomatic strategy by
Pakistan over the last couple of years. As part of what appears to be a coordinated
campaign by both diplomats and the military, Pakistan has made efforts to
minimize border tensions and go out of its way in public to emphasize its deference to Afghan sovereignty.

Talk, of course, is cheap. Many
Afghans simply do not take Pakistan’s pronouncements at face value. Decades of
border tensions over the disputed Durand
Line, public accusations
about each countries’ respective links to Islamist groups, and personality clashes have
clearly bred mistrust. Most recently, the Afghan intelligence service directly fingered Pakistan
for the deadly attack on the Serena Hotel in Kabul. All the same, Islamabad’s
charm offensive has helped to keep Afghanistan-Pakistan relations from
deteriorating into overt dysfunctionality — for now.

To read the full commentary, click here.

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