In a surprising move that caught even the rank-and-file diplomats off guard, the State Department reportedly is getting rid of its special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. While the decision is not final yet, it is highly likely that it will be taken, as former President Barack Obama had already began to slowly phase out the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) as he drew down US military presence in the region. On top of that, the position had been left open as the new administration failed to nominate anyone for the post for Senate confirmation, furthering the impression that it will be scrapped.

While the restructuring of the US diplomatic framework was in line with the gradual drawback, this rushed decision is anything but, especially since the US is considering substantially increasing its military presence in Afghanistan over the coming years. All of which begs the question, what exactly is the US policy for Afghanistan, what endgame does it see in the region and how will it interact with regional players like Pakistan?

There are no easy answers, as the Trump administration has given no coherent policy on the matter. While Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called for a “regional” solution and floated the idea that India might be more involved, there is little evidence on what this could actually entail. Even the decision to scrap the SARP position seems to be taken pursuant to the objective of cutting back the State Department jobs to free up funds, rather than a calculated Afghanistan policy. Similarly, the decision to send more troops to Afghanistan seems to have come solely from James Mattis, the Secretary of Defence, and the military, which has been given increased independence and discretion to make foreign policy decisions. Meanwhile two US lawmakers – with a history of anti-Pakistan advocacy – have introduced a bipartisan bill in Congress, seeking to revoke Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally (MNNA).

The only predictable outcome from this situation is unpredictability. With Afghanistan way down in Donald Trump’s agenda, the policy is currently a patchwork of vested interests and legacies of different departments. With violence flaring up in both Pakistan and Afghanistan and diplomatic relations between the two at their lowest, leadership from the US was expected and needed. However, the new administration seems to have very little capacity for that.