By Agha Iqrar Haroon
26-minute speech of the US President Donald Trump at Fort Myer military base in Arlington is loud and clear, loaded with allegations against Pakistan and indicating that the US establishment believes that Pakistan harbours enemies of the United States.
His speech and new Afghan strategy is appreciated by British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Indian Foreign Office and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. While Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid called new US Afghan policy a death route to more US soldiers. Responding to speach of US President Trump, Zabiullah Mujahid said Afghanistan would become a “graveyard” for the US in the 21st century. According to Al-Jazeera Kabul office, Zabiullah Mujahid stated that Trump is just wasting American soldiers.
“We know how to defend our country. It will not change anything. For generations, we have fought this war, we are not scared, we are fresh, and we will continue this war until our last breath”, added Zabiullah Mujahid.
His speech also indicates that no trust left for Pakistan among the US civil and military leaderships, and future of US-Pak relations is based on what tangible actions US leadership is going to take against Pakistan in nearest future.
His speech testifies that he believes what the Afghan government and the Indian government blame Pakistan for hosting terrorists; although Pakistan sacrificed over 65, 000 innocent civilians and soldiers by the hands of terrorists organisations living in Afghanistan and funded by India.
His appreciation for India for development in Afghanistan unveils that the Indian role in Afghanistan will increase in nearest future.
Trump’s claim that the United States is giving billions and billions dollars to Pakistan will open a new discussion at international forums that how much money is being received by Pakistan from the US kitty and what for? Is the US president talking about the Coalition Support Fund or something more?.
One needs to go through the US-Pak relations during the last 10 years before reviewing new US strategy for the region, and important pointers of President Trump’s speech to understand what kind of trust deficit exists between the two countries; although Pakistan had been a frontline state in US wars in the region including war on terror and war against former Soviet Union. Pakistan paid a lot financially and socially for US-launched “Operation Cyclone” in late 70s and “Operation Enduring Freedom” in 2011.
Previous US leaderships had been blaming Pakistan for hosting Haqqani network secretly while Pakistan had been denying such allegations. However, the murder of one of sons of Jalaludin Haqqani in the Capital Islamabad helped anti-Pakistan lobbies to use this incident against Pakistan. Nasiruddin Haqqani was shot dead in Bara Kahu area on November 11, 2013 when he was buying bread less than 10 kilimetres away from the Parliament House of Pakistan.
The US-Pak relations survived killing of World’s most wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden (OBL) – the founder and head of the Al-Qaeda group who had came to Pakistan to serve in Afghan Jihad supported by the United States in early 80s. OBL was killed in settled area closer to garrison of Abbottabad in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on May 2, 2011. US Navy SEALs known as SEAL Team Six conducted the operation code-named “Operation Neptune Spear”, raided OBL compound in Abbottabad, killed him and took his body to Afghanistan leaving traces for Pakistan to testify who had actually been killed and being transferred to Afghanistan. Osama’s dead body was thrown to sea within 24 hours of his death without showing to Pakistani authorities and anybody on earth except the US authorities.
Tensed US-Pak relations are not new news but things are changing drastically after the US found India as its strategic partner which is arch-rival of Pakistan and reportedly involved in sponsoring terrorism within Pakistan.
Allegation of housing Haqqani group is somehow or other has no logic because Haqqani group is the supporter of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – a banned terror outfit which has been killing Pakistani soldiers and civilians since last 11 years. TTP is in direct war against the state of Pakistan while having alleged funding from India. The Ameer (Chief) of TTP Mullah Fazlullah is housing in Afghanistan and became Ameer of TTP after getting approval from Haqqani group. How can Pakistan hosts a group which has been supporting the most lethal enemy of Pakistan?, is a question that has no answer strategically.
Trump’s speech has following operational parts related to Pakistan, and which can help to paint new US-Pak relations for any regional analyst:
Trump: I am here tonight to lay out our path forward in Afghanistan and South Asia. I share the American people’s frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money — and most importantly, lives — trying to rebuild countries in our own image instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations.
Aggressive and instant actions are expected from the US forces in Afghanistan before winter starts.
Trump: I arrived at three fundamental conclusion about America’s core interests in Afghanistan. First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives.
Comment: The United States shall not leave Afghan war at least during Trump’s tenure even if it costs the US more than before.
Trump: Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable. 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that the country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists. A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists, including ISIS and Al Qaeda, would instantly fill just as happened before September 11. And as we know, in 2011, America hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq. As a result, our hard-won gains slipped back into the hands of terrorist enemies. Our soldiers watched as cities they had fought for and bled to liberate, and won, were occupied by a terrorist group called ISIS. The vacuum we created by leaving too soon gave safe haven for ISIS to spread, to grow, recruit and launch attacks. We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.
Comments: US may have plan of over next one decade to stay in the region because it has now three enemies—ISIS, Taliban and Al-Qaeeda splinter groups. 16 years have passed but the US and Afghan forces have failed to defeat Taliban, and there are three enemies instead of two so more time is needed to fight out this war. The United States has apparently lost the war in Afghanistan and its military leadership needs a scapegoat to transfer responsibility of failure; and Pakistan is the easiest target for saying this is Pakistan which is responsible for all failures of the US and Afghan governments.
Trump: Third, and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense. Today, 20 US-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the World.
Comments: Pakistan is now bracket with Afghanistan regarding presence of terrorist groups; therefore some action like “Operation Enduring Freedom” may be under consideration against Pakistan.
Trump: For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict. And that could happen. We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America. And we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world, for that matter.
Comments: The US will try to disarm Pakistan from its nuclear assets through diplomatic pressures, international campaign and even through force of power.
Trump: The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach in how to deal with Pakistan. We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond. Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists. In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner. Our militaries have worked together against common enemies. The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism. We recognize those contributions and those sacrifices.
Comment: New strategy can be stick without carrot and the US can strike even in settled areas of Pakistan to kill or find its projected enemies as it did to kill OBL in Abbottabad.
Trump: Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.
But that will have to change. And that will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target US service members and officials. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order and to peace.
Comment: Trump talks about “Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations”. This indicates that the United States is not only talking about Haqqani network rather it is claiming that more terrorist groups are being housed by Pakistan without naming any group.
Trump: Another critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India, the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the United States. 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. We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region.
Comment: India has gotten lead role in the Afghan issue and it will now club with the US for any US-backed Afghan dialogue and political solution.
Trump: We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy, with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own. We are confident they will.
Comment: Re-launching of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) type of new alliance for expanding military campaign in Afghanistan is on the card.
Possible Diplomatic Actions: Pakistan will try to build trust among the US civil and military leaderships while emphasizing its position that it is not habouring terror network and this strategy has very remote chances to work this time.
Pakistan will depend upon time-tested friend China to stand with it and will try to engage Russia to become closer ally.
China rejects Trump’s allegations against Pakistan, lauds Islamabad’s role in War on Terror
Meanwhile, China has defended Pakistan after Donald Trump criticism, and rejected allegations made against Pakistan.
In her media briefing in Beijing held on Tuesday, the Spokesperson of Chinese Foreign Office Hua Chun Ying said that Pakistan has been fighting the war against terrorism with full devotion.
The Spokesperson said that Pakistan has been the front line ally in the war against terrorism; therefore, the World Community should acknowledge Pakistan’s sacrifices and measures taken in the wake of anti-terrorism war.
Hua Chun Ying was of the view that Pakistan has played an important role and given great sacrifices in the war against terrorism. She said that China is happy over the Pak-US Cooperation to bring peace and stability in the region.
On its own part, Pakistan has to revisit its foreign policy towards Middle East for coming closer to Russia because Russian adversaries in Middle East are closest friends of Pakistan, and the Russian authorities are following policy of “Wait and See” before committing any strategic partnership with Pakistan.
Pakistani leadership can take a loud and clear position against allegations leveled by the US President stating that Mr. Trump is using words only enemies of Pakistan are referring against it. Such situation may be harmful for Pakistan economically, and can lead to the total seizure of US-Pak relationship.
US envoy briefs Pakistan’s foreign minister about Trump’s statement
Meanwhile the US ambassador to Pakistan David Hale met Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif in Islamabad on Tuesday afternoon, and briefed him about President Trump’s latest statement on the US policy review on South Asia and Afghanistan.
The US ambassador conveyed that the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson looked forward to meeting the Foreign Minister of Pakistan in the next few days to have an in-depth discussion on the state of play in the bilateral relationship as well as the new US policy on South Asia.
The foreign minister stated that he had accepted the invitation when the Secretary of State called him on August 14 and looked forward to his early interactions in Washington.
Khawaja Asif reiterated Pakistan’s perspective and desire for peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Highlighting Pakistan’s immense sacrifices in the enduring fight against terrorism, the foreign minister underlined Pakistan’s continued desire to work with the International Community to eliminate the menace of terrorism.
The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.