The joint communique, issued at the conclusion of two-day extraordinary meeting of NATO countries held in Chicago, voiced the resolve of NATO to hand over the security responsibilities to the Afghan National Security Force and stick to 2014 deadline for a complete exit of their forces from Afghanistan.
Chicago summit was billed as the most important moot to discuss the endgame in Afghanistan as well as reassure the war-weary NATO allies of the American determination to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Of significance has been the emphasis on the inevitable role of Pakistan in seeking a way out of the war, which continues to defy military solutions by the day despite major investment of time energy, and hard military equipment. So far, it has proven to be the longest and the most expensive war in the American history.
Chicago conference was also important for Pakistan in the sense that it provided Islamabad with an opportunity to clarify its position and make the world understand of its concerns and legitimate stakes in Afghanistan. Coming as it did on the heels of Bonn Conference II held in December 2011, which Pakistan chose to boycott as a mark of protest of the NATO attack on its forward military check post, Chicago conference sought to solidify gains and roll out a consensual plan for concrete endgame.
While addressing the conference, President Zardari said that a stable and prosperous Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s interest. He said that extension of Pak-Afghan Transit Trade up to Tajikistan was a proof of the fact that Pakistan would continue to work for peace and stability in Afghanistan and stay the course for elimination of all forms of terrorism and extremism in the country. He said that Salala attack undermined the Pakistani efforts against terrorists. Talking of political consensus in Pakistan of the need to link the renegotiations of new terms of engagement with the parliamentary approval, the president said that the government was bound by the recommendations of parliament, which he termed as binding. He also expressed Pakistan’s readiness to get out of NATO supply impasse through deeper engagement with the US, saying that the country needed international support and not reprimands.
As the last minute invitation to attend NATO summit came, it was rumoured that the invitation by the NATO secretary general to Pakistan came after Pakistan ‘assured’ the NATO of its willingness to reopen the supplies. By choosing to refrain from making any such announcement, President Zardari made it clear that notwithstanding the need for cooperation with the US and NATO, the national interest was paramount and supreme. The president also committed $20 million for Afghanistan despite worsening economic conditions back at home, which indicated Pakistan’s resolve to work for Afghanistan’s prosperity and stability. In a brief meeting with President Obama, the Pakistani president called for an end to drone strikes within his territory.
Of all the countries after Afghanistan, Pakistan, as a frontline ally, suffered the most both in man and material. According to official sources, Pakistan’s economy suffered an aggregate loss of $78 billion besides loss of lives of 35,000 people including its armed forces. In an effort to save the world from scourge of terrorism, Pakistan, somehow, became a victim of terrorism itself. While it continued to suffer causalities owing to bomb blasts and suicide bombings which occurred almost on daily basis, the US and NATO placed more demands on it with a proviso that it should ‘do more’.
The US, which is having to incur heavier expenses on transportation of its supplies from other routes, is not ready to accept the Pakistani demand of a transit fee on each container. In doing so, it has ignored a fundamental imperative of as to how a country like Pakistan will be able to grapple with a horde of challenges if it was not supported in diplomatic and economic terms.