WASHINGTON: In a candid admission, a close aide of the US President, Mr Barack Obama has said Pakistan is not going to completely change its "strategic orientation" against India which it considers a threat and would not be comfortable with an Afghan government closely aligned with New Delhi.
"Pakistan is not going to have completely changed the strategic orientation, which means that they are not going to be comfortable with a Kabul government that is too closely aligned with India, which means that they're going to be nervous about the Northern Alliance, which means that they're going to be continuing to seek hedges," the aide told a group of mediapersons travelling with the President on Air Force One.
His remarks indicate that the Obama administration has given up its relentless efforts of the past three years to make Pakistan realise that India is not a threat.
Mr Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan under the cover of the night to sign a historic Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA), in which US pledges support to the war-torn country for a decade after 2014, when NATO forces are planning to conclude their combat role. Briefing reporters on Air Force One, the senior administration official said the US is building international consensus around peace and stability in South Asia.
"As a part of that, we believe that Pakistan can and should be an equal partner in a way that respects Pakistani sovereignty interests and democratic institutions," the official said.
"We have made clear and will continue to do so that we have significant interest in an end to al-Qaeda safe havens and, of course, respect for Afghan sovereignty," the official noted in his remarks which were echoed by none other than President himself in his address to the nation from the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
The senior administration official said even as Afghanistan moves towards security transition, it is still a very dangerous place in certain parts of the country.
"The Taliban, the Haqqani network and their extremist allies have a capability of carrying out acts of terrorism," he said.
"But what we're saying here today is that's not going to deter us from achieving the end state that we and the Afghans both want, which is Afghan security forces that are capable of dealing with that threat, capable of mitigating that threat without US and other international troops, again, being responsible for patrolling Afghanistan's cities and mountains," the official said.
The close Obama aide exuded confidence that the Taliban would not come back to power despite best of its efforts.
"Am I confident that the Taliban won't come back to power? I'm confident that, based on how we have been building up the Afghan security forces and the capacity that they've shown over the last several months, which has actually exceeded where we thought they might be, that the Taliban can't return to the kind of takeover of the whole country that existed back in the '90s," he said.
"Do I think there will still be Taliban influence in villages and remote mountain regions of the country? Probably there will be. That would be true, by the way, if we were still there for another 10 years because that's where they live.
"But can we have a stable Afghan government that controls the major cities, the major roads, the major thoroughfares, and that the Taliban elements had to accommodate, too? I think that could be accomplished," the official said.