Donald Trump’s; the president of US war of tweets was a fierce attack on Pakistan, accusing the country of “lies and deceit” and making “fools” of US leaders. Trump declared twitter war against Pakistan which was responded by Pakistani leaders; saying that the US had given them nothing but “invective and mistrust”.
Trump’s words that “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan’’.
It was a cycle on a gradually increasing scale of discontent with Pakistan. Almost Four months back, Trump announced his new South Asia policy in August. That’s very short time in diplomacy, and Trump seems to have made up his mind about Pakistan. It is the first time a US president has put his own name and reputation behind the pressure on Pakistan. But question remains: is Trump’s threat another fake move taken many times before, more cheap talk? Or is something in real? It would be seen in future that whether Trump withholds $255 million in US aid as officials have threatened and also will take away Pakistan’s ‘Major Non-Nato ally’ status. A bare reading of the administration’s record show that Trump’s attitude towards Pakistan is more realistic than previous Presidents. US Vice-President Mike Pence, while on a surprise visit to Afghanistan told US troops at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan that “President Trump has put Pakistan on notice”.
Also in December, the Pentagon warned Pakistan that it would take unilateral action if Islamabad did not act to curb terrorists and end safe heavens. Gen. John Nicholson, commander of the NATO coalition in Afghanistan, said in November he had not seen “any change” in Pakistan’s behaviour despite several high-level engagements to persuade Islamabad.The accumulation of unmet US demands, including Islamabad denying access to a Haqqani Network operative captured during the rescue of an American-Canadian couple last October, has pushed the process towards war of words. In a dramatic reversal from his earlier position on the war in Afghanistan, US President Donald Trump has brought the Barack Obama era’s “Af-Pak” policy dramatically .Trump is having to revisit his earlier assumptions. The Obama administration was intent on drawing down American troops and that too within a specified timeframe, thereby allowing the Taliban to wait out the American forces.
Trump’s plan will lead to the deployment of an additional 4,000 soldiers to train and buttress Afghan forces. Contrary to official US data, there are already 12,000 Americans serving in the country. With Trump signing off on a larger deployment to Afghanistan of around 4,000 troops, this number would jump to around 16,000. The new strategy, we are told, will be dictated by “the conditions on the ground” not “arbitrary timetables”. The Pentagon deems such a move necessary to avoid the collapse of the US-backed government in Kabul but it would hardly be a force capable of dramatically changing facts on the ground a few years back American troops at the beginning of Obama presidency failed to do so. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani thanked the US for supporting “the joint struggle against the threat of terrorism”. The Taliban have responded Trump’s strategy, warning that “the Afghan Mujahideen are neither tired nor will it ever get tired in pursuit of winning their freedom and establishing an Islamic system.”
But the Taliban are no longer a cohesive force and are being challenged by the Islamic State. On the other side, the anti-Taliban camp is also a divided one with regional states playing one faction off another. Iran, Russia and China have moved beyond simply siding with the enemies of the Taliban and are busy cultivating influence with the main Afghan jihadist movement. Along with an expansion in American military footprint, the second aspect of the new strategy is a strong focus on Pakistan to make sure it abides by its commitments. Trump observed in his speech, “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond’’. For Pakistan, the message was clear, with words like “change of approach,” “a break with the status quo,” and “no partnership can survive a country’s tolerance of militants and terrorists. “Pakistan has leveraged its centrality in America’s Afghanistan policy for decades now, securing billions of dollars in US civilian and military aid. Given the geographical constraints facing the US supply lines, reliance on Pakistan has been a constant.
Actually during previous tensions between Washington and Islamabad, Pakistan has restricted the movement of trucks carrying supplies to US forces in landlocked Afghanistan. Confronting Pakistan is, therefore, easier said than done but Trump has put Pakistan on notice by placing it alongside North Korea and Iran, countries which are being watched closely by his administration. The US secretary of state further beefed up pressure on Pakistan by underlining ways that Washington could press Pakistan by means such as withholding military aid and reassessing its status as a major non-Nato US ally. Washington’s annual economic and security assistance to Islamabad had been falling anyway. After peaking at more than $3.5 billion in 2011, the US had been scaling back its aid for Pakistan since then, with funding falling below $1 billion. Pakistan, of course has a new benefactor in China, which was quick to leap to its defence, saying that, “We believe that the international community should fully recognize Pakistan’s anti-terrorism efforts. “Another side of Trump strategy is his outreach to India, saying a “critical part” of his administration’s South Asia policy is to further develop the US’s strategic partnership with India. Trump said, “We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development,” underlining India’s role in Afghanistan and the need to do much more.
New Delhi has welcomed the new approach, saying it shared Mr Trump’s concerns over safe havens and “other forms of cross-border support enjoyed by terrorists.” it is a clear message to policy makers based in Islamabad to view the pros and cons of the policy of Trump towards Pakistan. Trump’s policy is a remarkable shift for Washington, which had wanted to keep India out of its “Af-Pak” policy for long for fear of offending Rawalpindi. India was viewed as part of the problem and now Trump is arguing that India should be viewed as part of a solution to the Afghan conundrum.
It is high time for policy makers and power holders in Pakistan to revisit security arrangements and to reframe strategy to deal with the new situation to protect the interest of the State. Indian factor as accepted by the United States will in future cast shadow over CPEC and may cause harm to relations with other countries especially with China and Russia.
(MUHAMMAD SAEED KHAN)