US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s phone call to Pakistani Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan led to a diplomatic brawl between the US State Department and Pakistan’s Foreign Office as both sides issued contrary accounts of their conversation.The US State Department maintained that “Secretary Pompeo raised the importance of Pakistan taking decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan and its vital role in promoting the Afghan peace process. ”The Pakistani Foreign Office termed it as an “factually incorrect statement” saying there was “no mention at all in the conversation about terrorists operating in Pakistan”. Later, both sides stood by their statements clearly indicating that serious differences exist between the two countries with respect to the counter-terrorism measures Pakistan has taken so far and its role in Afghanistan. The US expects Pakistan to do more against terrorist groups allegedly operating from Pakistan and carrying out terrorist acts in Afghanistan.Pompeo is expected to visit Islamabad early September and the US has made its intentions very clear on what it would be discussing with Pakistani authorities: firstly, to bring the Afghani Taliban to the negotiating table using the influence Pakistan is believed to have on the Taliban or drive them out by taking decisive action against them. Failing to comply with the US demands, Pakistan could end up in the Financial Action Task Force’s(FATF) grey list, where it would face impediments in getting financial aid from international financial institutions, significant reduction of its exports to the US, and face more destabilisation and interference from Afghanistan.The US has already cut Pakistan’s defence and economic aid. Just recently, the US Congress passed a Bill to cut Pakistan’s defense aid from $750 million to $150 million provided under the Coalition Support Fund. The US has also cut military training program for Pakistan by not releasing funds for the US National Defense University (NDU), Washington, which has had 66 reserved seats for Pakistani officers for more than a decade now.The US needs Pakistan, since no one else could pull them out of the Afghan quagmire. As long as the US keeps watching Pakistan through an Indian lens, Pak-US bilateral relations are less likely to improve. The Trump administration needs to come out of the influence of the Indian lobby at Washington DC and stop asking Pakistan to do more as it has already done more than enough. It has lost 127 billion dollars in economy and 80 thousand lives. In return, it was accused of deceit and harbouring terroristsAll these steps have been taken as part of Trump’s policy to deal with Pakistan that was unveiled in January this year to put pressure on Islamabad to ‘do more’. Pakistan has its limitations in complying with these American demands. It has lost significant influence over the Afghan Taliban as other players with more influence have entered the Afghani political sphere.Russia is going to initiate talks on Afghanistan on September 4 in Moscow. It has invited Pakistan, China, Iran, India, and the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia. The US and Afghanistan were also invited but declined the Russian-lead talks saying that the Moscow Talks are unlikely to yield any progress. The Afghan Taliban however, has expressed their readiness to take part in Russian sponsored peace process that shows Russia enjoys significant influence over the Taliban. The US and Afghanistan blame Russia for assisting the Taliban in a bid to counter the (Islamic State) IS influence in Afghanistan. Iran is also blamed by the US for assisting the Taliban. The US needs to understand when there are so many regional powers having influence over the Taliban, how could Pakistan alone force them come to negotiating table?The US blames Pakistan for supporting the Haqqani Network — the most lethal of the groups fighting US, NATO and the Afghan forces in Afghanistan.Very rarely has Pakistan on an official level, shown defiance to the US. Pakistan’s newly appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs, Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s statement that Pakistan’s foreign policy would “begin and end at Pakistan” indicates that Pakistan has decided not to take US dictation anymore.PM Imran Khan has also said that Pakistan and the US will be allies in peace, not in war, which shows that Pakistan’s strategists seem to have taken a policy decision not to take military action against any militant group on the US dictate.Pakistan fears that taking military actions on US dictates could backfire and cause instability in the country. In the past, Pakistan took military action against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and later they were able to build sanctuaries in Afghanistan. Pakistan blames India and Afghanistan for sponsoring the TTP, enabling it to carry out terrorist acts inside Pakistan from Afghan soil. It also fears the same fate for taking action against the Haqqanis and other militant groups.Pakistan wants leverage in Afghanistan to play its role in Afghanistan after the US withdrawal but the US intends to give India a pre-dominant role in the region. Pakistan feels it could be squeezed in by India and Afghanistan if India has significant influence in Afghanistan. So, the US strategists have to decide if they are ready to limit Indian influence in Afghanistan for a stable and peaceful Afghanistan and the region at large?The Trump administration’s harsh policy and coercive actions have brought Pakistan closer to Russia and Iran. It already enjoys cordial relations and strategic partnership with China which many believe is the real bone of contention in the Pak-US relations.The US needs Pakistan since no one else could pull them out of the Afghan quagmire. As long as the US keeps watching Pakistan through an Indian lens, Pak-US bilateral relations are less likely to improve. The Trump administration needs to come out of the influence of the Indian lobby at Washington DC and stop asking Pakistan to do more as it has already done more than enough. It has lost $127 billion in economy and 80 thousand lives. In return, it was accused of deceit and harbouring terrorists.General Nicholson — the commander of the NATO led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan — has acknowledged that the military campaign in Afghanistan is largely at a stalemate. While the US military figures suggests that when Nicholson took over the command in May 2016, 34 percent of Afghan districts were contested or under militant control compared with 44 percent as of May 2018.The figures clearly suggest the US and its NATO allies are fighting in Afghanistan for a losing cause. Instead of twisting Pakistan’s arm or blaming others for the mess created in Afghanistan, the US must engage Pakistan and other regional actors to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table to find a peaceful settlement to the longstanding Afghan issueThe writer is a journalist & analyst based in Islamabad. He tweets at @kashifaliraza& can be reached at email@example.comPublished in Daily Times, August 30th 2018.