Syed Qamar A Rizvi
THE news coming from Washington send the message that the Trump’s administration seems prone to use its wildcard against Pakistan—revoking a non-NATO ally status, declaring it terrorism sponsoring state, operating unilateral drone strikes and further cut in US aid to Pakistan. But strategists strongly doubt that Trump’s volte face towards Pakistan will fulfil American interests. Conversely, this impulsive policy if translated into practice, will foil US’ regional objectives simply because the US Afghan mission cannot be accomplished without Pakistan’s military support. Therefore, in order to deter a conflict trajectory in the South Asian region, Washington needs to pragmatically ponder its Pakistan policy.
As for the Trump administration’s erratic, insane and impulsive approach to foreign and national security policy, Richard Haass, the President of the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR), in his latest 2017- book ‘A World in Disarray’, astutely argued: “The United States has to be wary of sudden or sharp departures in what it does in the world. Consistency and reliability are essential attributes for a great power. Friends and allies who depend on the United States for their security need to know that this dependence is well placed. If America comes to be doubted, it will inevitably give rise to a very different and much less orderly world. One would see two reactions: either a world of increased ‘self-help,’ in which countries take matters into their own hands in ways that could work against U.S. objectives, or a world in which countries fall under the sway of more powerful local states, in the process undermining the balance of power.”
The two dangerous trends revealed in Trump’s foreign policy are: nihilistic unilateralism and hedonistic nationalism that intrinsically pose great challenges to constructive internationalism- as reflected by Trump’s reservations over US’s funding for the United Nations. There is rising concern in Pakistan that the Trump administration is exercising an impulsive Pakistan policy in order to pressurise Islamabad. Given the geopolitical changes in the region where China, Russia and Pakistan are coming closer; and where Turkey has become cautious about NATO’s hard power doctrine; and while Iran is already poised against America’s narcissist policies, a US-alienated Pakistan will escalate US’ geostrategic challenges. The US Afghan war will be highly unpredictable without Pakistan supply routes’ support.
The Abbottabad operation against Al-Qaeda’s head Osama Bin laden in 2011 has been the root cause of creating doubts between the two states. If for Americans, Osama’s refuge in Abbottabad was a painful experience, equally was— disgusting and detestable— America’s decision to invade a Pakistani territory of Abbottabad which was ultra vires vis-à-vis Pakistan territorial integrity and sovereignty. Pakistan has been aptly fighting this war against terror. Pakistan’s military combats— Zar-be-Momin and Rad ul—Fasad against the terrorists and their hideouts—need no further definition and explanation. Pakistan has borne a loss of $123 billion since its engagement in this war waged since 2001. Pakistan military has played historic role in WOT. South and North Waziristan are no more the terrorist sanctuaries- as admitted by Senator Mc Cain during his recent visit to Pakistan.
Yet ironically, the US holds the perception that Pakistan military and intelligence services prefer to maintain friendly ties with the Taliban in order to gain some strategic benefits. Yet, this thinking contradicts US’ own appraisal about Pakistan military. The US army generals at the Pentagon have admitted the epic role that Pakistan military has been rendering in WOT. And justifiably the former Pak army chief, general Raheel Sharif was given the US military award in 2015 in recognition of Pak military’s role in the war against terror.
Trump must realise the US past policies in terms of more coercive measures— including behind-the-scenes threats, public rebukes, withholding assistance, and unilateral drone strikes against Pakistan-based terrorists— have provided no worthy results. And yet, neither approach succeeded in transforming Pakistan’s core strategic concerns. Trump’s South Asia policy—which is born out of an India-US honeymoon of interests is seen by Islamabad as Washington’s deceitful ploy to demoralize Pakistanis, and hence it is unacceptable. Washington’s sui generis demand to do more is now regarded as an oxymoron justification by Pakistan. What needs to be understood by the US law makers and policy designers is that despite Pakistan’s becoming a direct target in this war of terror, Islamabad did not compromise on terrorists’ agenda inside or outside Pakistan. Notwithstanding the evil consequences of action/reaction Taliban strategy, Pakistan continued its counter-terrorism operations and triumphed many successes.
A US policy of double standard and the power imbalance in South Asia has created many peace impediments in the region. Peace in Afghanistan is concomitant to Peace in Kashmir. As for Pakistan’s action against the Haqqanis and other Jehadi organisations, Washington must address Pakistan’s concerns regarding the TTP hideouts in Afghanistan. Trump’s administration must respect Pakistan’s sovereignty by refraining from conducting illegal drone operations inside its territory. Peace will see a false dawn in South Asia if US further moves towards playing an action/reaction game between US-Pakistan-India.
However, some still argue: despite the existence of bilateral trust deficit between the two sides, the Pak-US relationship yet gravitates around a catch-22 situation whereby to divorce this old relationship seems an unappreciable probability by either side. For Washington, the geo-strategic need of Pakistani support is pivotal and instrumental in this war against terror. For Islamabad, to lose an old ally is not diplomatically appreciable. Yet, Pakistan is by all means poised for defending its Pakistan first doctrine.
— 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.