Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi
TRUMP’S White House is applying the so-called principled realism approach towards Islamabad clearly gleaned from President Trump’s tweet post on January 1. The statements uttered by US President/ Vice President and the Secretary of State are not only intimidating but also disparaging — upending tense diplomatic atmosphere between Washington and Islamabad. Yet the US’ threat-delivering approach- towards Pakistan who underpins a shift in its US policy based on sovereignty-centric pragmatism will not work and Washington needs to come out of its fancy jargon/ prisoner’s dilemma. Worse, by applying these tactics or ploys of unilateralist gains to the negatively pursued Indo-US interests, Washington abdicates its own agenda of regional stability and peace in South Asia.
A Pentagon report to the US Congress on the security situation in Afghanistan has included a troubling assertion about Pakistan-US ties. The report has warned that the US is prepared to take “unilateral steps” in areas where Pakistan differs with the US in how to address the regional militancy threat. However, Trump’s new national security strategy in the South Asian region reflects nothing but manifestation of US adopted prospect doctrine vis-à-vis Pakistan. To protect Pakistan’s territorial integrity is the end-all-be-all of our defense policy. A shift in Pakistan’s US policy is pragmatically based on three factors: US’s hostile approach towards Pakistan; the divergence of approach on counter-terrorism; and US-India provoked strategies/pressure tactics on Pakistan’s eastern and western border.
After utilising Pakistan’s strategic role for the last 68 years, Washington’s callously transforming policy on Pakistan from an ally to a hostile status demonstrated by a joint US-India strategy to mobilise the Afghanistan- based TTP network against Pakistan amply unravels Washington’s true intention about Pakistan. Trump’s policy to use Pakistan forces as America’s gendarme for Afghanistan is defacto rejected by the government and the peoples of Pakistan.
Irrefutably Washington used to have a lot of contact with the Haqqani network all throughout the 1980s when America considered them friends and allies. When the network was helping fight to get the Soviets out of Afghanistan, Congressman Charlie Wilson referred to the Haqqani patriarch Jalaluddin Haqqani as “Goodness personified.” In no way, Washington can blame Pakistan for poor border management vis-à-vis terrorist safe-havens. It’s not that the Pakistanis have made the conscious decision to not control their borders, it’s because that they can’t as simply as America’s porous border with Mexico resembles the similar challenges of uncontrolled border movement. Almost a majority of the fighters of the IS/Daesh operative terrorist groups in Afghanistan hails from the TTP. The Pakistanis justifiably oppose India’s enlarged role in any Afghanistan future.
The US policy makers must realise that Washington’s policy to use pressure tactics against Syria, Iran and North Korea have not worked. How can Washington be anticipating that its pressurizing game can work against Pakistan- who rendered valuable sacrifices in this war against terrorism- a country which now heads the military command of the Muslim formed NATO, the only defacto Muslim nuclear power-cum- an emerging smart power state via CPEC whose strategic location is pivotal for the nations of East and West? The South Asian region is under the flux of neo-geopolitical order thereby giving the space to new alliances. Pakistan’s do more demand from the US is justified. Trump’s trumpeted criticism against Pakistan is tactical ploy beyond any reality. The stoppage of 255 million US dollar coalition support fund (CSF) to Pakistan is by no means a surprise to Pakistan. Pakistani economy bore a loss of more than US$123b during the 16 years US –imposed war on terror.
Needless to say, the use of Pakistani territory is a key to supplying U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, and as those forces are set to increase, the role of Pakistan in that supply chain will be even more important. As for the US, there exists a dangerous flaw in the US held stance: get tough on Pakistan. Islamabad could shut down these supply routes as a countermeasure against the US. As for our defense revitalisation, Pakistan rightly intends to maximize its security cooperation. A strategic defense cooperation deal between Riyadh- Islamabad-Ankara with regard to protecting each other against any foreign aggression could be of vital importance.
US political scientist Richard Haass has rightly argued about Trump’s Foreign policy in his latest piece in the Atlantic, ‘America and the Great Abdication’: ‘’There must be a presumption of continuity in the foreign policy of a great power if allies are to remain allied and if foes are to be deterred. Unpredictability may on occasion make sense as a tactic, but not as a strategy’’. Trump’s tactical Pakistan policy-characterising unpredictability, uncertainty and diversion in South Asia- seems to be the most dangerous strategic blunder of his administration, evolving incongruent peace matrix and security dynamics in the region.
The Trump administration is escaping from the real issue that, success in war ultimately depends upon the consolidation of political order. In her latest 2017 Book, “War and the Art of Governance”, a US political thinker Nadia Schadlow argues, bluntly, that given a history of 100 years of US military interventions abroad, it is revealed that Washington consistently commits the mistake of focusing on the tactical operations rather than paying attention on the hard work of political development and reconstruction. Not nation-building per se, but a non-sustainable negative trajectory of occupation via ISIS/ Daesh presence remains Washington’s thriving policy- drive in Afghanistan. Instead of relying upon its disengagement and diversion policy in the region, the only workable strategy before Washington is to regulate its state cartel doctrine— promoting linkages in South Asia via diplomatic discourse.
— The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-analyst based in Karachi, is a member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies.