Trump’s South Asia policy — an ad hominem


Syed Qamar A Rizvi

PRESIDENT Donald Trump announced on Monday PRESIDENT Donald Trump announced on Monday  night his administration’s plans to continue the  engagement of the United States military in Afghanistan, a strategy— meant to redefine US’s new South Asia policy, thereby ignoring Pakistan’s concerns—seems to have paved the way for further intensifying the regional situation. The said policy seems to be an ad hominem. A non-partisan insight— into the ground realities surfaced by the internal chaos and external pressures that create a complex Afghan scenario— does prognosticate that this new Afghan policy is accompanied by such approaches that yet carry much ambiguities/uncertainties/challenges regarding Washington’s indoctrinated approach towards South Asia. Trump said, ‘’as a result of our comprehensive review, American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically in the following ways. A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin or end military options’’. There are clear indications from Trump’s announced policy that US has been brushed by the Indian policy recommendations equally fostered by those Afghan factions who have close affinity with New Delhi. It has been the Indian thinking that the mangers— of Pakistan’s Afghan policy— would want to stabilize Afghanistan with the Taliban largely in control as a Pakistani client. But this has been an irony that Washington did not evaluate the dynamics that badly affect the complex Afghan issue while engineering or crafting the new Afghan policy. “My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts,” Trump said . “But all of my life I heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.” Trump said, ‘’we are making clear to the Taliban that they will not win on the battlefield. The Taliban has a path to peace and political legitimacy through a negotiated political settlement to end the war.” He also suggested that, unlike the Obama administration, his goal in Afghanistan was to kill terrorists, not engage in nation-building. Trump said, India’s role is critical in Afghanistan stability.  Trump highlighted India’s future role in the economic development of the Afghan people. Though apparently, Trump has not said anything in detail about the prospective Indian role in Afghanistan, there is much food for thought that the common sense digs out of the current shift of the US policy that is merely a representation of Indian mind set about both Pakistan and Afghanistan. The new policy has some profound demerits: 1-Under the new policy, a gap of misunderstanding between Washington and Islamabad would be more widened.2-A gulf of misunderstanding on the issue of Taliban/Afghan factions and the governance in Kabul would be more endangered between New Delhi and Islamabad 3- The increase of NATO troops would generate sick confidence in the Afghans since the current policy has no indication of US exit strategy 4-Without involving Pakistan, It appreciates to be an illusionary scenario that a stable and peaceful Afghanistan can emerge 5-The cost and benefit analysis of the present US policy indicates that a more tense regional dynamics can be created as a result of the twin game has to be played by both US-India in Afghanistan 6-Pakistan will be enhancing and depending more on China and Russia, and would try to rebalance the US-India- Afghan strategy there with making a closer union with Turkey- Iran-China-Russia 7-To dash out the expanding threat of Al-Qaeda/Daesh or its penetration into different parts of Afghanistan is not an easy going challenge without the help of Pak military who has profound experience in tackling counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism issues more skilfully than India 8-The divisions or regrouping in Afghans is highly possible after the new US policy 9-Pakistan may become more resilient on the issue of Haqqani network 10-The new policy will brew an atmosphere of more confusion and misunderstanding between Kabul and Islamabad Pakistani officials, however, believe the US’ approach seemed to be aimed at “keeping us on our toes and under pressure”. If the US does not consider our legitimate concerns and just toes India’s line, then we will certainly move closer to China and Russia,” the Pakistani official said, referring to Pakistan’s first “contingency plan.” The argument solicited by the Pakistani side seems highly validated insofar as after playing a historic role in 16 years war against Terrorism, Washington now keeps Islamabad at a distance while keeping India closer to its Afghan strategy. (This is reflective of US’s zero sum game towards Pakistan.) The Pakistani side is not wrong in its perception that India’s true objectives in Afghanistan lie in promoting ‘Baloch separatism and anti-Pakistani militancy’ in the tribal areas. Trump’s South Asia policy depicts no negative consequentialism. Given the above arguments, it seems significantly clear that by making a compliance of such an unbalanced US Afghan policy —thereby replacing Obama’s pragmatism with Trump’s realism—Washington cannot be able to harvest any positive results. Both China and Russia, two big stakeholders of the regional peace have shown warranted reservations over the new policy. Islamabad is determined to defy the US pressure. Pakistan will not compromise vis-à-vis its sovereignty. Therefore, an approach ardently based on a revisionist pragmatism should be accommodated in the new US strategy as argued and suggested by American foreign relations expert Richard N. Haass’ objective analysis about the Afghan situation.— 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.

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