The Pakistan Plan: How a Poisonous Relationship Could Become Prosperous

Arif Rafiq

Arif Rafiq

Security, Middle East

The Khan-Trump meeting provides an opportunity for American and Pakistani officials to begin a conversation about potential areas of convergence on controversial topics, like Afghanistan.

The Pakistan Plan: How a Poisonous Relationship Could Become Prosperous

Next week, Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan will visit Washington where the charismatic, outspoken ex-cricketer will meet with another outsized personality: President Donald Trump.

The visit of Khan has been in the works since early this year, but it is nonetheless a surprise given Trump’s history of hostility toward Pakistan, including a 2018 New Year’s Day tweet in which he said that Pakistan has “given us nothing but lies and deceit” despite having received “over $33 billion” in aid.

Trump’s sentiment toward Pakistan has also been reflected in his administration’s so-called South Asia strategy, which identified Pakistan as a destabilizing force in Afghanistan and India and depicted it as an obstacle to U.S. interests in the region.

Trump unveiled his South Asia strategy at an Army post next to Arlington National Cemetery in August 2017.  During a speech about the strategy, he noted that Pakistan “has much to gain” from helping the United States in Afghanistan and “much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.” The strategy, however, contains few carrots and many sticks, amounting to an effort to compel Pakistan to change its policies toward Afghanistan and India.

Washington has deferred agreeing to a Trump meeting with his Pakistani counterpart. It appears to be using the meeting as a reward for behavioral change. So Khan’s upcoming trip to Washington begets the following questions: Why is the visit taking place? What has changed to make it possible? And has the strategy for compelling Pakistan worked?

The Exit to Afghanistan Goes Through Pakistan

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