President Trump stood to his reputation, he took seven months to coin his ‘winning strategy’ on the Afghan war, and as expected, it was nothing but a way to dump his failed military approach on Pakistan.
Pakistan According to Trump
He lived up to the expectations. Not to his voters, but for Pakistan’s. We expected similar fascinating but bewildering and protracted speech that leads to nowhere.
Trump claimed it was a new and winning strategy, whereas it was something nowhere even near a strategy. He has stuck to the same tried, tested and botched military approach of his predecessors. The only new element is India’s formal role in Afghanistan, which only seems to backfire.
The recent approach to South Asia confirms the doubt that the US has not learned any lesson from its 16-year long failure in Afghanistan. Trump needed someone to blame for their failed strategy and Pakistan was a preferred choice, since we already carry the burden of India’s botched strategy in Kashmir.
While we understand that Washington bidding farewell to Kabul when its security forces are demoralised and the militants are on the rampage, would only serve Russia’s and Iran’s agenda, we should also highlight the consequences of threatening and bashing Pakistan.
Rebuttal to Trump’s rhetoric about Pakistan
Trump’s speech on Tuesday had three major factors concerning Pakistan.
1. Blaming Pakistan for Double Play
Trump took on Pakistan by stating: “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond, that approach will have to change, and change immediately.”
If Newton had to derive a Law of Stupidity, he would have taken inspiration from the US strategy to offer that ‘trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is a sign of stupidity/insanity’!
This blame game isn’t new either. His predecessors had been using the same escape route when there was nothing to say to US citizens.
Well, in Pakistan’s defence, Mr. President, the “leader of the free world”, operation Zarb-e-Azb, Radd-ul-Fasaad and Khyber –IV are proofs of a strong and coherent strategy against terrorism across the board.
It has been conveyed to the US administration via diplomatic channel that Pakistan has acted indiscriminately against the terrorists of all hue and colour. There are no terrorist hideouts in the country anymore.
The US delegation that met with Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa was given certain evidence. The delegation was even offered to visit the tribal areas along with Pak Army officials and witness the current situation. But then there is global politics, there is regional politics and there is India playing its role.
2. Trump Wooing India, the archrival in Afghanistan
“We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.”
Trump, in his speech, asked India to play its part in the economic development of Afghanistan. Just to get the facts straight; around 67 percent of India’s population lives below the poverty line. How come a nation which is facing abject poverty issues back at home can help develop another country?
Pakistan has raised objections on several occasions about Indian presence in areas closer to Pak-Afghan border, citing potential security threat. The formal permission will only worsen this issue.
In spite of addressing the reservations to your closerst ally in this war, you are legalising Indian meddling in Pakistan via Afghan soil and expecting Pakistan to ‘do more’ in return?
One thing is crystal clear here; India’s involvement in Afghanistan is a sure recipe for more disaster. Trump and company is either clueless or deliberately complicating matters in Afghanistan.
Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed believes, greater Indian involvement in Afghanistan could lead to a “proxy war between Pakistan and India” on Afghan soil.
3. Threats and Consequences
“Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbour criminals and terrorists. In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner.”
Opposition leader Imran Khan rightly stated, “Just as India blames Pakistan for the indigenous Kashmiri uprisings when these are a result of its own failed policy of military repression in IOK. So the US again blames Pakistan for its deeply flawed and failed Afghan policy stretching over a decade.”
Pakistan fought two wars in Afghanistan at the US behest paying heavy human and economic costs both times. We sacrificed over 70,000 lives in the US War on Terror. Our economy suffered over $100 billion in losses. In addition, there were intangible costs to our society. All of this, just to hear recrimination in return? Such an injustice!
This would be taken as a clear attempt to isolate and treat Pakistan unjustly and will only compound the problem. Instead of rendering any fruits, it will obviously be counterproductive for the announced US goals to stabilise the region in cooperation with Afghanistan’s neighbours.
I am afraid the US will have to bite the dust again.
As far as sanctions are concerned, current US flows to Pakistan are as small as to be nearly irrelevant. US was paying Pakistan $270 million dollars in 2009 to fight its war in Afghanistan, the financial aid has since been reduced to a mere $70 million in 2017.
Pakistan Army Chief has conveyed the message to US hierarchy that we do not need financial assistance, or any weaponry; all we need is mutual trust (in terms of diplomacy), recognition of our efforts and sacrifices in the war against terror.
Senator Sherry Rehman was of the opinion that “Pakistan is invested more than any country in the stability and peace in Afghanistan, especially given our long border and history of traffic and refugee hosting, so a more constructive path is better advised for all those committed to the same goals.”
Why India in Afghanistan?
It is an undeniable fact that no one wants peace in Afghanistan as much as Pakistan. Islamabad realizes that a stable Afghanistan is indispensable for the success of the CPEC project. The US should understand that only Islamabad can bring the Taliban into the proverbial peace tent. Thus, bullying Pakistan is neither smart, nor its going to render any fruit. It may however, make things worse for the US in Afghanistan.
As far as India is concerned, they have declared it as a diplomatic victory; they had long lobbied in the US to get this role. Prime Minister Modi’s US visit in June and Boeing Deal with America has its part in the decisions.
Though, India has been operating in Afghanistan in the name of economic assistance, building consulates, schools and secretly funding Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) fled commanders to function against Pakistan. This formal invitation would allow them to operate openly, putting Pakistan under pressure from both sides of the borders.
Where this gamble seems to be a winning strategy for India, it might also redefine as the notion of blowback.
India must learn from Pakistan’s experience in the war against terror. When Pakistan jumped into the US war against the Taliban, they were neither as strong as they are now, nor totally against Pakistan. Still, we lost 70,000 lives in the war, had to deal with the TTP factor, the largest inland war against terrorism, including suicide attacks, beheading of soldiers, attacks on military and political leadership, and killings of innocent children not to mention who was financing the terrorism.
India must understand they have fragile border situation, tussles with China and Pakistan, on top of unrest in Kashmir, Darjeeling and Khalistan. Dalits are also looking for a chance to hatch a new battle zone inside India.
Given the situation, can India afford a Tehrik-e-Taliban Indian wing to combat with?
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