So let's grab a cup of green tea, as they do in Peshawar, and see who's talking to whom. The Obama administration, following the Pentagon's most ardent wishes, is praying to reach a security deal with Karzai -- which would imply US "forces" on the ground. No wonder Taliban supremo Mullah Omar has already said this is a no-no.
Plan B is some sub-deal reached as part of the ongoing Washington-Tehran honeymoon, assuming it lasts; that would imply a strong Iranian presence in post-NATO Afghanistan, and once again -- no political space for the Taliban.
Islamabad, for its part, wants to talk to the Pakistani Taliban -- but they aren't talking. At the same time, Islamabad is terrified that India will have even more influence in post-NATO Afghanistan.
In this vein, Islamabad would not be exactly unhappy if the Taliban -- their former 1990s clients -- completely monopolized power in post-NATO Afghanistan. The key problem remains the Pakistani Taliban. If the talking in Afghanistan is messy, in Pakistan it's non-existent. The only victory option for Islamabad would be to convince Obama to end the drone war; and have the Pakistani Army smash the Pakistani Taliban by itself, or give them whatever they want in the Waziristans. It's not bound to happen.
A Pakistani youth from outlawed Islamic hard line group Jamaat ud Dawa (JD) holds a banner of a US drone during a protest in Lahore against drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas in Lahore on July 5, 2013. (AFP Photo/Arif Ali)
And here's where Washington's true agenda is revealed. Whatever happens, Islamabad will be deemed incapable of helping to "stabilize" Afghanistan, and even itself. So what's a benign superpower to do? It must, selflessly, remain "involved" in Af-Pak -- like, forever.
In a nutshell; Mr. Sharif goes to Washington to talk about no drones, less aid and more trade -- as in an open door especially for Pakistani textiles (it's not gonna happen). Obama only wants to talk about terrorism and a vague "stability" following the 2014 US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Compare it with Sharif's summer visit to Beijing. Pakistan's economy is an absolute disaster. It badly needs to solve its power and energy shortages before even dreaming of any economic progress. Sharif goes to Beijing and gets Chinese economic commitments in every field from energy to infrastructure. He even boasts, "the economic corridor taking off from Kashgar [in Xinjiang] to Gwadar [in the Indian Ocean] is a game changer...This is the time for both countries to move forward to a faster speed."
As far as Sharif's US trip is concerned, that's more like parking-lot speed. Americans are shooting guns at drones.
Even if the Kalashnikov-happy Pakistani Taliban adopted the practice, that would be far from ending Sharif's problems.