Washington: The US is unlikely to achieve much beyond resumption of logistic support from Pakistan, two former diplomats have warned. The warning comes ahead of the crucial meeting of Pakistan Parliament's discussion on its relationship with the US.
"The hope of a common strategy in Afghanistan is completely unrealistic," Teresita and Howard Schaffer wrote in their latest piece on the website of the Foreign Policy magazine.
They were recently in Pakistan.
While Schaffer is a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; Howard teaches at the Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.
Both are retired US ambassadors with long experience in South Asia.
"The most frequently mentioned theme in our discussions of the likely new look was the need for agreement on the end game in Afghanistan.
"This end game will indeed drive US-Pakistan relations in the short run, but the United States is likely to achieve little beyond resumption of logistical support," they wrote in the article which appeared on Monday.
Teresita and Howard said that the goals of the US and Pakistan diverge in ways that are too important to sweep under the rug; indeed, that is a major reason why a big strategic partnership is now out of reach.
"In principle, both want a stable, governable Afghanistan with no continuing ties to al-Qaeda. For Pakistan, however, this remains a secondary priority. The key objective is freezing out Indian influence in Kabul.
"Pakistanis do not believe President Karzai will be disposed to protect their interests - or strong enough to do so even if he wishes to," they said.
Strategic disagreement also impedes a common US-Pakistan front on negotiations with the Taliban, they said.
Pakistanis view US-Taliban discussions with scepticism and cynicism, both feelings now heightened by the fallout from the Quran-burning disaster in Afghanistan and, more recently, the shooting spree by an American soldier near Kandahar.
"The United States wants Pakistan's cooperation in talking to the Taliban; Pakistan wants to sit in the driver's seat. Even if the talks continue after their current interruption, Pakistan will focus chiefly on maximising its own influence in Kabul, even if that means a dominant role for Taliban elements that have been at war with the United States.
"In short, seeking a common strategy for the Afghan end game is likely to leave the United States feeling bruised and Pakistan unsatisfied," the two wrote.
They said the Pak army and the government have apparently agreed to reopen ground transport links to NATO forces in Afghanistan, subject to a higher price tag related more specifically to the amount of transshipment.
This would be an important contribution to a modus vivendi on Afghanistan, though it would not prevent the governments from working at cross-purposes on Afghanistan's fundamental political problems, they added.
"But the rest of the parliamentary package could add new roadblocks, especially if it includes a demand to end drone attacks. The involvement of parliament in this decision is a welcome step toward shared responsibility between civilians and the military, but comes at the price of adding an unpredictable element to decision-making in Pakistan," they wrote.