The US is going back to its old policy of taking on a more prominent role in the Afghanistan conundrum, and the unannounced visit by National Security Adviser (NSA) Lieutenant General H R McMaster to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif speaks volumes. After visiting Afghanistan, which is now using a more conciliatory tone in reference to Pakistan, the US is clearly looking to get Pakistan to ‘get tough’ on Afghan Taliban leaders reportedly hiding out in Pakistan.

Amidst all of this, former President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai has called President Ashraf Ghani a traitor for allowing the US to use the MOAB on Afghan soil. While he now opposes any additional troops coming in from the US, his time in power will be remembered as the time when Afghanistan was closest to the US. The current number of US soldiers present in Afghanistan is only a fraction of the total amount in place during Karzai’s time in power, which is why his accusations ring hollow.

Afghanistan has already offered what could be seen as a potential olive branch to Pakistan – President Ashraf Ghani sent a letter to PM Nawaz suggesting parliamentary dialogue, while Omar Zakhiwal has suggested a joint operation to nab Mullah Fazlullah and work towards eliminating terrorists associated with factions operating in Pakistan, provided Pakistan returns the favour. This is the first conciliatory statement from Afghanistan in months, and Pakistan should use this opportunity to mend ties. Enough barbs have been traded, and the Afghan government’s decision is one that Pakistan should receive positively.

Even though the Trump administration’s Afghanistan policy is still unclear, the use of MOAB and the US NSA’s visit to both Afghanistan and Pakistan indicates that the country is looking to get more involved, as of old. While this does in no way indicate that the condition in Afghanistan is likely to improve, it is clear that the US understands that Pakistan is an important regional stakeholder which must be convinced to do its part.

For now, it seems uncertain whether the Trump Administration will use the carrot to get Pakistan and Afghanistan on the same page, or whether a sterner stance is on the cards. Either way, this presents a unique opportunity for Pakistan, because it can use this to mend fraught ties with Afghanistan by catering to its demand of clamping down on Afghani militants. If we do this successfully, greater regional relevance ensures that India’s aims of diplomatically isolating Pakistan are not materialised and both the US and Afghanistan go back to seeing Pakistan as a crucial regional player and ally. A foreign policy masterstroke is on the line; the government just has to take this chance.