The Prime Minister’s impending visit to the US to meet President Trump has been preceded by a lot of positive noise coming from both sides. With reports of Pakistan’s input in the US-Afghan Taliban negotiations in Doha and in the organisation of the intra-Afghan dialogue held between stakeholders in the Afghanistan political process – the Taliban, the government and members of the civil society – all signs indicate that the US still recognises that it needs military cooperation with Pakistan to protect its own interests in the region. The latest indicator of this is the statement of US Presidential nominee for the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the armed forces General Mark Malley. 

 Highlighting the need to maintain strong military-to-military ties at a time when the Pakistan-US relationship will feature the first engagement between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Trump is not a coincidence. With reports that Chief of Army Staff General Bajwa will also be in the US meeting military heads when the Prime Minister will be in the country kickstarting relations between his and President Trump’s governments, the US seems more willing to engage with Pakistan now that it has seen the effect it had in bringing all parties to the negotiation table in Afghanistan.

 Our historic ties with the US have featured military cooperation resulting in funding defence capabilities in Pakistan, and if the US is looking to take a more positive direction than has been the case in recent times, the armed forces of Pakistan will obviously be looking to restart some fund packages that were either put on hold or cancelled for perceived failures on the part of Pakistan to take action against terrorists. Pakistan can only do as much as its allies support it. More action on terrorism when Pakistan’s economy is paying the price must be recompensated by the US.

General Malley’s comments regarding Afghanistan indicate that President Trump has hired a man that is not in too much of a rush to withdraw US troops; Pakistan will continue to be an important partner for the US – whether it likes it or not – in Afghanistan until a complete withdrawal of troops from the country actually takes place. The incoming head of the armed forces of the US seems like a pragmatic man; pulling out without a deal in place will inevitably lead to chaos in the region. It is hoped that this sensible attitude will come to fore more often after General Malley is confirmed as the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.