Pakistan is and will remain a major player in the final outcome in Afghanistan, an American think-tank has said, asserting that economic incentives can be given to Islamabad if it takes steps to restrain the Taliban operating from sanctuaries on its soil.
"The truth is still this: Pakistan is, and will remain, a major player in the final outcome in Afghanistan, and Washington's approach in this situation should be to continue to work on interpersonal relationships among key leaders, as well as coordination and cooperation along borders where enemies of one country or the other often cross," a Center for a New American Security (CNAS) report has said.
In the report, authored by two former top defense officials of the Obama Administration, the CNAS calls for providing incentives to Pakistan, like free trade accord or aid for a regional energy sector, provided Islamabad restrains the activities of the Taliban within its territory.
The report is co-authored by former US Afghanistan commander retired General John Allen, the former Pentagon Undersecretary for Policy Michele Flournoy and Brookings senior fellow Michael O'Hanlon.
"These things should be done in tandem with Afghan leaders at every step. Beyond that, measures towards deeper economic integration may be possible with Pakistan (such as a free trade accord or aid for a regional energy sector) - provided that Islamabad takes significant and effective steps to restrain the Afghan Taliban operating from sanctuaries on its soil," the report said.
"Realistically, this agenda may not yield great fruit by the end of 2014, but it is still the right way to play for the long run," said the 16-page report released on Friday.
As for Pakistan's motives and goals, Islamabad and Washington have had such a troubled history that there is deep distrust and even a degree of pathology in the relationship, it said.
"That helps explain why some in Pakistan, fearful of future Indian dominance of the wrong type of Afghan government and dubious that the US and its partners will really remain committed to Afghanistan's future stability, continue to hedge by supporting the Taliban as an insurance policy even now," it said.
"There may be other Pakistani motives at work in the nation's Afghanistan policy, too, including the hegemonic desire to dominate a smaller neighbour. In fairness, it is unclear how much influence and/or control Pakistan can really exert over Taliban elements in Pakistan," the report said.