Collaboration, not discord, is required to defeat the militants plaguing both Pakistan and Afghanistan
The United States wants to fight the Afghan Taliban till they are defeated and tamed. It wants Pakistan to help because it thinks they find “safe havens” there. Meanwhile, Islamabad is all-too-aware that Washington has been unable to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan—with the militants now back in control of nearly half of Afghanistan. Sadly, Pakistan too has fought its own Taliban and is threatened by them from their “safe havens” across the Durand Line.
Can the U.S. and Pakistan get together and put on an end to the Taliban of both varieties tending to merge on the basis of their ethnic-linguistic identity? Pakistan has serious reservations about the American ability to finish off the Taliban in Afghanistan. Subliminally, Pakistan too is humbled in its efforts to rid itself of the Taliban terror. Afghanistan suffers from the disadvantage of never being centralized as state. So does Pakistan, most of its area ruled by tribal-feudal lords. Both states are almost strangers to income tax, traditionally the first measure of the writ of the state.
Pakistan has to be more scared. Its Taliban have their tentacles spread across the country through the madrassa system and the process of “integration” during the decade of Taliban rule in Afghanistan. The cult of war called jihad has been internalized even in areas where there is little tribalism. International terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and Islamic State have their cells in South Punjab, northern Sindh and in the mega-city of Karachi, which is the biggest Pashtun city in the world.
In the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province the government has learned to pay itself out of trouble with the Taliban. The process of detribalization has become stuck in disputes among the political stakeholders, and Pakistan’s tribal areas are still wide open to anti-state elements. Therefore, it is easier for the U.S. and Pakistan to become rivals and hurt each other than collaborators in the war against terrorism.