President Zardari Rejects Obama’s New Afghanistan Strategy

Bilal Qureshi

I can’t think of anyone in any government in Pakistan has ever openly rejected anything proposed by Washington before Pakistan’s current President, Asif Zardari publicly and strongly rejected Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Speaking to Financial Times, President Zardari correctly pointed out when he said:

“Afghanistan and Pakistan are distinctly different countries and cannot be lumped together for any reason.”

In reality, Pakistan has always objected whenever Pakistan was linked with Afghanistan for a broad policy frame work to stabilize the region.

Despite tremendous challenges, Islamabad has been pointing out that Pakistan is a fully functional democracy with robust media and an independent and powerful judiciary. Moreover, Pakistan army is exceptionally well trained, organized and fully funded. Regretfully, nothing is operational in Afghanistan when both countries are compared.

At this point, I want to point out to my readers that by comparing the two countries, I am not attacking or God forbid maligning Afghanistan when I suggest that Afghanistan is behind Pakistan in every area – be it functional economy, established and cohesive government, or anything else that is necessary for a sovereign country, at least for now.

Therefore, whenever Pakistan is linked with Afghanistan, Islamabad reacts sharply and angrily because Pakistanis have been leading the fight against the Taliban on their own, unlike Afghanistan where Americans and NATO forces are fighting the Taliban. Furthermore, most of the Pakistanis are against the Taliban and favor completely eliminating the Taliban.

Washington has to listen to Zardari because if an ally like Zardari reacts this harshly towards a particular policy coming out of Washington, it must not be ignored. In fact, it would also be a mistake to strong arm Zardari and Islamabad into accepting something that Islamabad considers to be a wrong approach towards Pakistan. Remember, if America rolled over Zardari, and lost the support of progressive parties like the People’s Party, the United States  will have to deal with right winger Nawaz Sharif, who is surrounded by anti American and pro Taliban leaders.

During Secretary of State Clinton’s visit to Islamabad next month, all these issues are likely to come into focus. But, these issues must not wait for high profile visits to come under discussion. Washington has to listen to Islamabad whenever any policy about this region is being shaped. During my conversations with folks in the government in Islamabad, I have noticed that people feel that Americans believe that only they have all the answers for the problems of this region, which of course is not true. Both Islamabad and Washington have a lot at stake here and it is critical that both countries realize each other’s position. Most importantly, it is important that Washington understand Pakistan’s delicate situation, and because of Washington’s unfortunate actions after the Soviet’s left Afghanistan, it is very difficult for Islamabad to fully appreciate America’s long term commitment to this region. Pakistan also believes that so far, only Pakistan has successfully beaten the Taliban, something which American and NATO forces have not been to accomplish in Afghanistan even after almost 8 years.

The choice for Washington is simple and easy, at least today. If Washington continued down the wrong path, it would become extremely difficult, if not impossible to find any support for anything that would comes out of Washington, either in Afghanistan, or in Pakistan. If on the other hand Washington listens to Islamabad and is willing to make adjustments accordingly, at least towards Pakistan, the coalition forces are likely to achieve their goal of peace in the region sooner then they expect.

Bilal Qureshi

Washington, DC

6 Comments

Filed under Afghanistan, Islamabad, Pakistan, Taliban, Terrorism, Zardari

6 responses to “President Zardari Rejects Obama’s New Afghanistan Strategy

  1. YLH

    Now this is an article I wholeheartedly agree with and I must appreciate Asif Ali Zardari for telling Obama to take a hike on the Af-Pak issue.

    President Obama is increasingly beginning to look quite naïve when approaching the complicated world of global international politics.

  2. Ordinary americans don’t know the difference between the two countries. Pakistan Afghanistan its all the same to them. They’re leaders aren’t much different. They are as ignorant as the masses. So Zardari needs to get a reality check. This is how the americans think and this is how they will always think. His mistake is getting in bed with them.

  3. Mustafa

    1. zardar is lying, he is fully inline with obama. he is saying this due to public and army pressure. Also pressure from possibly PKKH and people like Dan Qayyum and Ahmed Quraishi and Zaid Hamid who influence public opinion

    2. the pakistani taliban and afghan taliban are completely different. Pakistan is eliminating TTP and wants to get rid of it while it has good relations with Afghan Taliban since they did not allow Afghanistan to be used for indian and isreali activities.

    3. Nawaz Sharif is the biggest liar and says something and does the opposite. He seems right wing but is as much a puppet as zardari.

    4. the foriegn forces do not have peace as thier goal in the region. Thier goals is to surround China and Russia with military bases. Get oil pipelines running from Afghanistan and from central asian states into western markets without crossing iran or russia. Surround iran with military bases. Weaken Pakistan through covert operations. Estabalish a securty for isreali and american interests via american bases in afghanistam and iraq and possibly install missile shields the may possibly deter missile atacks from china russia and iran and maybe also pakistan.

  4. Mustafa

    By the way i d agree with few points in the article and apreciate mr qureshi’s insight

  5. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Pakistan: Do Not Link Us With Afghanistan

  6. Mustafa

    hey guyz….i enjoy debating with you guyz….or atleast getting feedback…so do you guyz agree with me or disagree?? I do not want to have the last say….explain why you disagreee or agree…or atleast just state if you disagre or agree