With Afghan reconciliation process facing stalemate once more, Pakistan’s National Security and Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz’s upcoming visit to Kabul has taken on an added significance. The trip is taking place immediately after UK’s Foreign Secretary William Hague visited Islamabad, and when John Kerry is slated to arrive in Pakistan towards the end of July.
Sartaj Aziz is scheduled to meet with Karzai on July 21st with mistrust between Afghanistan and Pakistan, including Afghanistan and the US, at all time high. The dynamics of the ties between the three nations usually swings back and forth depending on events; the recent spate started with the opening of the Taliban Doha political office.
The way the affair was handled acutely aggravated Karzai’s fear that he is being sidelined by both Pakistan and the US, and Pakistan’s narrative is getting wider acceptance. Moreover, Karzai now believes US and Pakistan are in cahoots in devising a future plan for Afghanistan, and without his involvement.
As noted previously, Karzai perceives the situation as an existential threat; it’s now or never. Towards this end, he is likely to go to any length, including stimulating the nationalist sentiments in Afghanistan towards Pakistan and foreign occupation. Karzai has also put the security talks with US on hold. These talks were meant to determine the level of US military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014. As a reaction to this, US is also considering a zero troop option, which Karzai can hardly afford.
Sartaj’s mission is likely geared towards smoothening the apprehensions in Kabul. In fact, it will be more a charm offensive. He will want to convince Kabul the new civilian government in Pakistan is in control of the security affairs, and it sees Karzai as a viable economic and security partner. Nawaz Sharif is adopting the same good neighbor approach towards India.
Ironically, India may be able to do a much better job of convincing Karzai. The trouble being, India and Russia have already conveyed their dismay on American willingness to reconcile with the Taliban.