Washington needs Pakistan as a partner at the end of the day: US officials divided on Pakistan Policy

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Washington needs Pakistan as a partner at the end of the day: US officials divided on Pakistan Policy

The United States and Pakistan continue to partner on a range of national security issues," Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said.

But the discussions alone suggest a shift toward a more assertive approach to address alleged safe havens in Pakistan that have been blamed for in part helping turn Afghanistan's war into an intractable conflict.

Although long mindful of Pakistan, the Trump administration in recent weeks has put more emphasis on the relationship with Islamabad in discussions as it hammers out the regional strategy to be presented to Trump by mid-July, nearly six months after he took office, one official said.

"We've never really fully articulated what our strategy towards Pakistan is. The strategy will more clearly say what we want from Pakistan specifically," the U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Other U.S. officials warn of divisions within the government about the right approach and question whether any mix of carrots and sticks can get Islamabad to change its behavior. At the end of the day, Washington needs a partner, even if an imperfect one, in nuclear-armed Pakistan, they say.

The United States is again poised to deploy thousands more troops in Afghanistan, an acknowledgment that U.S.-backed forces are not winning and Taliban militants are resurgent.

Without more pressure on militants within who target Afghanistan, experts say additional U.S. troop deployments will fail to meet their ultimate objective: to pressure the Taliban to eventually negotiate peace.

"I believe there will be a much harder U.S. line on Pakistan going forward than there has been in the past," Hamdullah Mohib, the Afghan ambassador to the United States, told Reuters, without citing specific measures under review.

Kabul has long been critical of Pakistan's role in Afghanistan.

Pakistan fiercely denies allowing any militants safe haven on its territory. It bristles at U.S. claims that Pakistan has ties to Haqqani network militants blamed for some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan.

"What Pakistan says is that we are already doing a lot and that our plate is already full," a senior Pakistani government source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The source doubted the Trump administration would press too hard, saying: "They don’t want to push Pakistan to abandon their war against terrorism."

Pakistani officials point towards the toll militancy has taken on the country. Since 2003, almost 22,000 civilians and nearly 7,000 Pakistani security forces have been killed as a result of militancy, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, which tracks violence.

Experts say Pakistan's policy towards Afghanistan is also driven in part by fears that India will gain influence in Afghanistan.