US and Pakistan flags
“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting,” declared the US President. “It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilisation, order, and to peace”. Quoting the figure of billions he overlooked that a big chunk from this went to support the Mujahedeen to counter Russia in Afghanistan.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had followed up on the threats by suggesting it could lose US concession if the government failed “to change their posture”. (Quoted)
One may ask the Minister of State why the US and NATO forces combined have failed to clear out miscreants from Afghanistan? Why is 54% of Afghan territory under Taliban control even today? Ladling out blame on Pakistan’s plate will not help. It reflects lack of options on part of US. There has been no strategy discussed by President Trump regarding nation building in Afghanistan. It revolved around blame game and blame game alone.
A consensus has been built up in carefully and craftily in Washington that Pakistan is part of the problem not the solution. The unsavoury truth is, it is Washington’s misguided policies that have been the problem. Unless and until this is acknowledged and then sensible policies developed, the situation in Afghanistan will just become worse.
Pakistan’s setting up barbed wire on the 2,400 miles of Pak-Afghan border along with mining and manning combination is an effort to curb easy ingress into her borders by sponsored terrorists. This one act of wiring the border sends across a strong message. Pakistan needs space to enforce its writ. Pakistan needs economic and political stability. For this reason Pakistan has reached out to Russia and China. It is reaching out also to Iran.
With China looming big in Pakistan’s economy and Russia flexing her muscles and ready to befriend Pakistan, these steps by US will not work. There is no incentive for Pakistan to come to heel at the crack of the American whip in light of consistently ignoring of Pakistan’s valid concerns of India’s involvement in Afghanistan. The repeated attitude of treating Pakistan as a ‘lesser ally’ is rankling.
An ongoing proxy war between India and Pakistan makes the latter increasingly uncomfortable with US allowing greater space to India in Afghanistan, using it as strategic depth against Pakistan.
The core issue here is Kashmir. ‘The Pakistan government finds it difficult to take a firm action against these militant groups when India-Pakistan relations are marked by high-level hostility and India is publicly demanding action against these groups. Improved India-Pakistan relations and resolution of major disputes, including Kashmir, will make these militant groups irrelevant and increase the Pakistani government’s ability to curb them.’ (Council on Foreign Relations July 13, 2009) Yet US has steered clear of trying to bring any kind of understanding between the arch rivals on this issue. Instead it has chosen to threaten Pakistan at different levels. Cutting off military reimbursements is one step; threat to take away the title of a “major non-NATO ally” status is another.
Trump’s opposing comments on inviting India for a greater role in Afghanistan and publicly humiliating Pakistan for her role in war of terror expose his lack of understanding of the issue. Both desires are in direct conflict with one another. Besides Pakistan offers a route to NATO supplies to Afghanistan.
“Upgrading the Indian role in Afghanistan basically means perpetuating the hostilities,” said Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Islamabad-based Centre for Research and Security Studies. (Washington Post, August 22, 2017)
Jarrar Shah, Columnist, pragmatically points to Pakistan’s strategy to deal with terrorism, “Pakistan has made a conscious decision to roll back home grown militancy as a tool for achieving strategic goals. However I believe different groups will be dealt with differently on different timelines. Not American or Indian timelines. Also some groups will be attempted to be mainstreamed. Whether that works or not remains to be seen and will be contingent on how our polity continues to function in the future. Long road ahead.”
With an Afghanistan destabilised by terrorism the inevitable spill over into Pakistan will detract her from pursuing nation building projects like CPEC besides becoming destabilised herself. It does not suit Pakistan to have Afghanistan unstable.
“On February 9,(2017) the US general in command of the NATO force, General John Nicholson, warns that he needs thousands more troops, telling Congress: “I believe we’re in a stalemate.” (Al Jazeera August 22, 2017)
Threatening Pakistan is not a strategy Mr President. Facing issues and efforts to address them is. Blame games lead nowhere. Involving a greater Indian involvement will only push Pakistan in the arms of Russia. China has already shown her support to Pakistan upon the US President’s speech and her economic interests in Pakistan are already well known.
What are the American interests in Afghanistan today Mr President?
Endnote: “Everyone loves a witch hunt as long as it’s someone else’s witch being hunted.” Walter Kirn (regular reviewer for The New York Times Book Review)