How not to engage with Pakistan?



Mohammad Jamil

Richard G. Olson, former US Ambassador to Pakistan, in his treatise ‘How not to engage with Pakistan’ dwelt at length with the US policy towards Pakistan, and it appears that he has respected Pakistan’s stance and views. He was specifically critical of President Trump’s decision to suspend almost all security aid to Pakistan, and admitted that “coalition support funding” is in fact reimbursement to Pakistan for counterterrorism operations and the Foreign Military Financing program, which pays for purchases of American military hardware, services and training. Olson referred to the limitations of American options that lie in geography and history, and was of the view that “the administration’s approach is unlikely to work, as Pakistan has greater leverage over us than many imagine.” He showed respect to Pakistan’s narrative and versions. Almost similar views were expressed in New York Times editorial.
Olson was candid in stating: “The geography that defines Pakistan’s security worries has also been a bane for the United States. For the past 16 years our military efforts in landlocked Afghanistan have been dependent on transit through and especially over-flight of Pakistani territory. Supply through the Central Asian states to the north is theoretically possible, but would rely on Russian good will. Enough said. Without Pakistani cooperation, our army in Afghanistan risks becoming a beached whale. Thus, the Trump administration’s attempt at humiliating and penalizing Pakistan is unlikely to work. Pakistan, like most countries, reacts very badly to public attempts to force its hand. It is likely to respond by showing how it can truly undercut our position in Afghanistan.” He went on to state that the path of the tweet and highly public aid cuts is not a method that will engender success.
The US does not realize that Pakistan has suffered directly and indirectly in the war on terror to the extent of $100 billion. US officials and military commanders often accuse Pakistan of unwillingness to act against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. In the same breath they admit that they cannot win the war in Afghanistan without Pakistan’s help. But such statements were meant to give a soothing effect so that Pakistan continued to toe American line. Pakistan has always rejected harboring militants but says there are limits to how much it can do, as it is already fighting multiple militant groups. At least since Zarb-i-Azb Pakistan did not draw any distinction between any terrorists and has taken up the fight against terrorism and the terrorist elements in Pakistan. Yet there has been growing resistance in the U.S. Congress to make payments under CSF to Pakistan.
US President Donald Trump has once again spewed venom against Pakistan – an ally in War on Terror and NATO’s major non-NATO ally. In a twitter on the eve of New Year, he stated: “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 & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools.” However, Pakistan has taken the position that mutual respect and co-operation at military, intelligence and diplomatic levels should be the hallmark of relations between the two countries. As regards, President Trump’s allegation that Pakistan has betrayed the US, it is not true. In fact, Pakistan has been betrayed by the US many a time in the past. Just imagine; had Pakistan not conducted operations like Zarb-i-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad in addition to taking border management measures, Afghanistan would have been in a much worse situation.
Members of US Administration and Generals have been pushing Pakistan to do more, despite the fact that more than 60000 Pakistani civilians and more than five thousand security personnel have lost their lives since Pakistan joined the war on terror. Yet, they often say that Pakistan must be sensitive to the US security interests. The question is what Pakistan has been doing since the US invasion of Afghanistan, if not this, even to the detriment of its own national interests? In fact, since 1950s, Pakistan has been looking after American interests after it joined military pacts with the West and bilateral agreement with the US. When US spy plane U-2 took off from Buda Ber near Peshawar and was shot down by Soviet Union in 1960, whose interest Pakistan had served if not the US? Yet the US did not help Pakistan during 1965 war with India; rather it slapped embargo on defence supplies.
But problem is that CIA and FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHI) are working as state within a state or “shadow government” in the US. President Trumps rhetoric and acerbic remarks besides, the deep state does not listen to the civilian political leadership i.e., president or congressman. The maneuvering by intelligence agencies and their hold on US political and structural pillars of the state shows the hold of the deep state. Snowden leaks also exposed the overwhelming reach of the intelligence surveillance. Recently President Trump has also alleged CIA for interference with his agendas and termed its officers as sick people. Chattering classes often criticize the influence of Pakistan army/ISI in Pakistan; in fact the covert influence of CIA, NSA and FBI is extremely deep in the internal affairs of the US. The undeclared intelligence budget is many times more than Russia and China, which shows US budgetary diversion.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.

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