From public debate to diplomatic circles, highly regarded think-tanks, former diplomats and the legislature, there is one basic question about the scope of US-Pakistan relations in Washington: whether to coax or force Pakistan to help the United States and its international partners to defeat the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. In other words, to push Pakistan to initiate an action on its soil against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network, who, according to the international community, are responsible for scuttling whatever peace and stability the US and NATO presence achieved in the war-battered country. At a time when Pakistan is looking for a strategic reset in its frenemy relationship with the world sole Super Power, there are very few people on the ground who listen and add a supportive voice to Pakistan’s concerns even though some the concerns are pretty genuine. Deficit of trust, in this case, is the foremost reason. During my week-long stay, I found majority of the policy level discussions in Washington DC supportive, one way or another, of President Donald Trump’s New Year speech where he accused Pakistan of ‘lies and deceit’ while ending his note with ‘no more.’ Among the holders of ‘carrots’ and ‘sticks’, for the first time I noted that the number of people in the row holding the sticks are much more than the ones offering the carrots. However, the debate stuck, at the public level at least, when it comes to two simple but crucial questions: Carrots, but till how long? And punitive action, but what next? Proponents of the ‘carrot’ approach, disregarding the allegations of double game and unreliability against Pakistan in the US-led anti-terror war, often face the brief, but valid argument that both Presidents George Bush and Barrack Obama continued showering aid money but desperately failed to win Pakistan’s sincere support against the Taliban and the Haqqani Network. The most unfortunate aspect for Pakistan is that the country’s success against TTP and al-Qaeda is overshadowed by the allegations of double-dealing while the progress on the democracy front is often seen as hogwash However, in their counter-argument, the ‘carrot-holders’ believe that Pakistan security partnership is of immense value for the United states in the nuclear-armed South Asia where an emerging China, an emboldened Iran, the re-birth of ISIS, continued insurgency in Afghanistan, and the war-like situation between the nuclear-armed India and Pakistan may pose challenges to the US interests in the region. This group agrees to Pakistan’s ‘unreliability’ regarding Taliban and the Haqqani Network, but appreciates the country’s security cooperation with the United States in evicting and arresting al-Qaeda leadership and thrashing the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Their worst nightmare is the continuous fighting in Afghanistan that may strengthen the Taliban and Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), the Pakistani nukes and the spread of extremist-related instability and violence into Pakistan’s border region once again. However, the question of ‘till how long’ is equally valid as the US believes the ‘billions of aid’ that Pakistan received did not help bring positive change and that policy needs a review. The group supporting the ‘stick’ approach suggest revoking the non-NATO ally status and even go to the extent to ‘declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism’. They believe the past 16 years of US support, the country’s non-NATO ally status and the military assistance could not persuade Pakistan to change its behaviour and there is no hope of such a change even if the US continues pouring financial and material assistance for another 16 years. So why not change of tack? But they too confront a key question: ‘So, what next?’ What if the United States declares Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism and the country does not comply or refuse to bring change in its Taliban policy? Can the US afford losing Pakistan to China, Russia and that too in a neighbourhood where Iran retains the red zone in US policy while the war in Afghanistan is raging with no end in sight in the near future. What amazed me the most was that Pakistan is left with no or very few friends in Washington whose voice(s) can make an impact with the US administration. In such a situation, even the strongest argument will end up losing its value in front of the chatter surrounding Taliban and the Haqqani Network. Contrary to that, the Indian lobby is stronger and people pay more heed to their voice while the Afghan side is getting a sympathetic response despite criticism of poor governance, widespread corruption, power struggle among individuals and ethnic overlords, worsening insecurity and waning writ of the Afghan state. The most unfortunate aspect for Pakistan is that the country’s success against TTP and al-Qaeda is overshadowed by the allegations of double-dealing while the progress on democracy front is often seen as a hogwash. One has to run for a defendable argument when is questioned about the civilian authority comparing to the generals. While there are growing number of voices in favour of a rupture with Pakistan, there also exist people who believe the deadlock could be ended by resorting to realistic approaches. Richard G. Olson, former US ambassador to Islamabad, is one among them. While fully understanding that Pakistan security establishment is not going to do away with their Taliban proxies so easily, Olson still believes that ‘without Pakistani cooperation, our army in Afghanistan risks becoming a beached whale.’ ‘A better approach would be to privately convey, at the highest levels and without equivocation that the only way to preserve any relationship with the United States is to cut all ties with the Taliban, including the Haqqanis,’ ambassador Olson recently noted in a New York Times article. While there are many other such voices, it is up to the policy makers on either side to decide how to progress on addressing the problem without breaking the alliance. One point is and must be very much understandable: Break-up is not going to resolve the issue and so is the double-game. Better listen to each other, set aside unrealistic demands, present the genuine concerns, and focus on the viable options. The writer is senior editor with Pashto language Mashaal Radio in Prague Published in Daily Times, February 21st 2018.