Recently, we witnessed an unprecedented escalation between Pakistan and the United States (US) over their diverging goals in the War on Terror (WoT). It can be argued that the war has largely failed since its inception. While Pakistan seems to have pushed back militants since it launched countrywide operations in 2014, the US is still finding ways for a safe exit from Kabul and using Islamabad as a scapegoat to conceal its failures as witnessed through Donald Trump and Nikki Haley’s harsh, undiplomatic and ill-advised statements regarding Pakistan’s role.Conflicting statements and actions on part of the Trump Administration since the new South Asia policy was announced in August 2017 has made Islamabad wary of how relations will proceed. Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif has already indirectly declared the US an ‘enemy’ of the country for its alleged double standards while the GHQ still remains cautious and diplomatic despite signals of a let-down.In the meanwhile, scholars and diplomats from both countries such as Michael Kugelman of Wilson Centre, Former US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson and Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua believe that there’s still room for a workable relationship despite all the hullabaloo and populist slogans from both governments.The US may have cut off key security aid but it is well aware of the fact that the road to peace in Kabul passes only through Islamabad not New Delhi. If one remembers then back at the London Conference in January 2010, the concerned stakeholders vowed to give Pakistan a greater role in securing peace, much to India’s annoyance. Indeed, this was whitewashed when a massive breakdown in bilateral ties occurred in 2011 after Operation Neptune Spears materialised along with the Memogate and Salala incidents.Nevertheless, once relations stabilised, another chance in the form of a renewed Afghan Peace initialised in Summer 2015 but that too was briefly sabotaged with the news leakage of Taliban supremo Mullah Omer’s death. Still everyone agreed to continue the peace process through a newly formed Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) later that year with the special involvement of Beijing.The US may have cut off key security aid but it is well aware of the fact that the road to peace in Kabul passes through Islamabad not New DelhiThis was also made redundant after Omer’s successor Mullah Akhtar was assassinated by a drone strike. Since then, Beijing and Moscow have taken the lead in securing peace by involving not only Islamabad but Tehran and Ankara as well. Perhaps, the problem lies in Washington DC where certain hawkish academicians and advisers such as Bruce Reidel and Christine Fair do not wish to play by the rules. Hence, the frustrations of being unable to win an ‘unwinnable’ war are being vented upon Islamabad without any concrete reasons. Yes, the much dreaded Haqqani Network is still out there but does Pakistan really have that much leverage to influence it? Absolutely not! The border regions are porous and militant groups are sub-divided to such an extent that they don’t even listen to their superiors. Then how can the state be ‘all powerful’ to tame a subgroup of the Afghan Taliban? In other words, it resembles a wild west so a mind-boggling and bizarre theory by Trump’s team.In historical context, both countries remained key allies to counter the threat of Soviet-influenced communist ideology but after the April 1988 Geneva Accords, things went quite awry with the Afghan Mujahideen, of which Haqqani Network was an integral part that was jointly trained by the CIA and ISI under Operation Cyclone, re-emerging as the Taliban in the mid-1990s. While it’s true that Pakistan had to tackle the mess on its own there was hefty cost involved as well. Perhaps, the Afghan policy could have been better implemented had the then PPP government acted wisely by refusing to bring Mullah Omer to power. Securing Kabul for vested interests at the time shot Islamabad in the foot in the long-run if certain factors are considered. The ramifications of this policy in the context of Pakistan’s blind support for the Afghan Jihad were not only detrimental to the state’s fundamental ethos but also to the society as a whole. Influential militant leaders such as Osama bin Laden and Abdullah Yusuf Azzam were indirectly funded by the Saudis and cheered upon by the Americans. Hence, Pakistan was eventually entrapped in a complex religious web and had no way out through regional machinations.Proxy warfare injected with religion sparks like a huge wildfire and this is what has been happening in the region during the last four decades. Pakistan’s leaders easily fell into this trap and dozed off for a prolonged period. When talking about religious teachings, the Madrassah system’s purpose is only to teach religion and nothing else in a country like Pakistan. Subjects like history and science of authoritative nature are not even considered worthy for teaching the students studying in these small-scale but widely found religious schools whose number are in thousands.Coming back to the WoT, the US itself was never clean and in fact has no right to entirely place its burden on Pakistan. The reality remains that war is business in the modern world and terrorism combined with sectarianism are its main pillars. No major national-security state wishes to truly maintain peace as complex cycle of warfare is by all means necessary to ensure its hegemony.If looking at the broader spectrum, public diplomacy is required to ensure the sustainability of projecting soft power. India has remained quite successful on it unlike Pakistan unfortunately. While Pakistan has indeed managed to bounce back to an extent in recent times through effective lobbying efforts in some key countries (except the US), they are worthless if the majority of the diaspora fails to mingle with local communities on an acceptable level.Having lived and travelled abroad extensively throughout my life, I hardly found the country’s diaspora interact with the people of host countries in Europe and North America. The reasons are quite clear. Most of them are from lower middle-class and working-class families that are not only conservative in nature but rigid as well.For them, everything revolves around religion and patriarchy. It’s more like living in a confined place where reasoning is considered a taboo. No wonder, there’s lack of quality education and life if going around the places they live in these countries. This is where Pakistan’s stumbling block remains when it comes to projecting soft power. The root cause remains the abysmal conditions of employment opportunities in Pakistan itself where no one can truly succeed without having the right contacts.Furthermore, the kind of education system the locals go through makes them conservative to a very large extent with hyper nationalism being widespread (something that shouldn’t really be happening if vouching for a progressive and stable society). There is a thin line between remaining well-informed and comfortable with assimilation and remaining deliberately ignorant of the surroundings. Compared to countries such as India and China, Pakistan remains much behind in this context.If the US dared to point fingers then Pakistan shouldn’t even have let such instances become obstacle to counter effectively regardless of any moral or logical reasoning. For diplomacy and inter-state relations to succeed, the house needs to be put in order first. As an interesting addition, I would like to add that while I was completing my undergraduate studies in London, my final year dissertation explored US-Pakistan relations in which it was clearly defined as a ‘need-based’ relationship which would diverge when goals would mismatch. This was some four to five years ago and today, that still echoes true.The writer is a geopolitical analyst and an alumnus of the Department of War Studies, King’s College, University of London. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and tweets @mhassankhan06Published in Daily Times, January 12th 2018.