Written By: Amir Zia


Out of this much touted figure of USD 33 billion, which Mr. Trump claims that the U.S. gave to Pakistan, USD 14.6 billion were on account of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF). The fact is that Pakistan spends more under this head than what it receives from Washington. The remaining USD18.8 billion comprised around USD 8.0 billion in security and military assistance, while the remaining USD 10 billion plus amount falls under the category of economic assistance disbursed through the USAID. Even out of this USAID amount, three-fourth goes back to the United States as consultancy and advisory fee. According to economic experts, the average annual U.S. assistance Pakistan received over the last 15 years is not more than USD 650 million an year, which remains less than one percent of the country’s budget.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s unapologetically brash, reckless and undiplomatic tweets are sending “virtual” tremors across the globe, or at least a part of it. In just the first three days of 2018, Mr. Trump used his private Twitter account to call Pakistan – once seen as the key U.S. ally in the war against terrorism – “a liar and a cheat,” threaten North Korea that he has “a much bigger” nuclear button and to take his animosity towards the American press to a new level by announcing “the most dishonest and corrupt media awards of the year.”


As a business tycoon and television personality, Mr. Trump could certainly afford to thrive on controversies. He could bulldoze rivals in political, business, media and social circles, using and abusing the social media without the worry of any wider consequences. But exercising similar tactics as president of the world’s most powerful nation is tantamount to upsetting the applecart and introducing an element of dangerous unpredictability and uncertainty in the international politics.


Yes, before Mr. Trump, it was unimaginable that a U.S. president would be taking to Twitter in a rash and impulsive manner to insult, abuse and threaten other states instead of opting for considered, careful, calculated and responsible diplomacy. Not anymore. And ironically, his blunt, unconventional and confrontationist style is defining and leading the U.S. foreign policy now.


Twitter Tirade
Mr. Trump’s New Year’s Twitter tirade against Pakistan, in which he accused Islamabad of playing a double game with Washington, remains unwarranted, thoughtless and damaging in the overall fight against extremism and terrorism. It marks a new low in the often rocky relationship of these two uneasy allies who have a history of working closely together as well as witnessing prolonged periods of estrangement.

Pakistan is the world’s only country that defeated terrorists without any foreign assistance, establishing the state writ even in those remote parts of the country where it never existed before. Pakistan Armed Forces successfully cleared terrorist safe havens including from North Waziristan in successive operations at huge sacrifices.

Yet, at least on part of Pakistan, both its civil and military leaders have been consistent in efforts to maintain friendly ties with Washington. To date, this desire of working with the United States has not changed.

Yet, at least on part of Pakistan, both its civil and military leaders have been consistent in efforts to maintain friendly ties with Washington. To date, this desire of working with the United States has not changed.


Director General Inter Services Public Relations Maj General Asif Ghafoor asserted in his various media interactions that Pakistan considers the United States as a friend and an ally and wants it to succeed in Afghanistan. But “a third force” has been trying to create misunderstanding between the two countries, he said referring towards the negative role played by the hostile neighbor i.e. India. The military spokesman, however, said that in case of any U.S. action against Pakistan, the armed forces would respond according to the aspirations of the people. This position underlines the fact that Pakistan’s desire of peace and friendly relation should not be taken as its weakness or lack of will to protect its national interests.

 

theperilsof.jpgPakistan’s civil and military leaders have reacted in a measured and mature manner to the recent provocation by Mr. Trump and other top U.S. officials in recent weeks and months.


The flawed and inconsistent U.S. approach in its dealings with Pakistan was highlighted by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton way back in April 2009 in these words; “(we) have a history of kind of moving in and out of Pakistan.”


Clinton explained how the militancy in Pakistan was linked to the U.S.-backed proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. “… we then left Pakistan [after the collapse of Soviet Union]... We said okay fine you deal with the Stingers that we left all over your country... you deal with the mines that are along the border and... by the way we don't want to have anything to do with you... in fact we're sanctioning you... So we stopped dealing with the Pakistani military and with ISI and we now are making up for a lot of lost time,” she told a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, while discussing the Obama administration’s foreign policy at that time.


Stating the Obvious
Mr. Trump’s administration is committing the same mistake of blaming, abandoning and victimizing Pakistan as pointed out by Hillary Clinton in 2009. This has been the continual flaw of U.S. policymakers, who time and again ditched their time-tested and dependable ally, creating more problems than solutions.


However, even before the Trump juggernaut came into motion, at various levels a sustained propaganda campaign had already been launched against Pakistan in Washington and other Western capitals, which accused Islamabad of not doing enough to help the U.S.-led NATO forces achieve victory in the war-ravaged Afghanistan.


These allegations mainly stem from the fact that despite spending trillions of dollars in its longest ever war, the United States and its allies failed to achieve their goals in the land-locked Central Asian state. Pakistan was made a scapegoat to divert attention from the policy and military failures of the U.S.-led NATO forces.


Washington’s growing strategic relations with India that included the controversial nuclear cooperation treaty of 2008 – which fundamentally reversed more than 50 years of U.S. non-proliferation efforts – also played a role in the gradual widening of trust deficit between Pakistan and the United States. The preferential treatment given to India by the United States, which also gave New Delhi a freehand in Afghanistan allowing it to use the Afghan soil to fan terrorism in Pakistan, also became one of the main bones of contention.


Changing U.S. Priorities
However, while blaming Pakistan for the Afghan mess, the U.S. decision-makers seem to deliberately overlook the way their successive governments kept changing goalposts in Afghanistan.


President George W. Bush vowed in 2002 to make Afghanistan a modern democratic state – invoking the memories of Marshall Plan – but then going full steam into Iraq, neglecting the Afghan mission. President Barrack Obama in 2009 promised to focus on narrower goals that included defeating Al-Qaeda and the Taliban by a military surge and then pull out and leave “a good enough” Afghanistan. The cornerstone of Mr. Obama’s strategy was to work with Pakistan and it’s military to defeat the Al-Qaeda and its likes. But when Mr. Trump announced his Afghan policy on August 21, 2017, he ruled out pulling troops out of Afghanistan, announcing more boots on the ground and insisting that Pakistan must “do more” or face possible sanctions. Mr. Trump’s decision to stay and “fight to win” is another major policy shift in which the U.S. administration has decided to use coercive approach against Pakistan not just to put the blame of its failure on Islamabad but to directly suck it in the Afghan conflict – which successive Pakistani leaders have successfully been resisting so far.


Myth of $33 Billion
The U.S. administration, however, is building pressure on Pakistan to do its bidding, underlining its rash approach and failure to understand – by design or default – the complexities of Afghanistan.


Mr. Trump in his provocative New Year’s Tweet claimed that the United States “foolishly” gave “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.” This statement itself exposes either the deliberate twisting of facts by the U.S. president or his lack of understanding.


Out of this much touted figure of USD 33 billion, which Mr. Trump claims that the U.S. gave to Pakistan, USD 14.6 billion were on account of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF). The fact is that Pakistan spends more under this head than what it receives from Washington. The remaining USD18.8 billion comprised around USD 8.0 billion in security and military assistance, while the remaining USD 10 billion plus amount falls under the category of economic assistance disbursed through the USAID. Even out of this USAID amount, three-fourth goes back to the United States as consultancy and advisory fee. According to economic experts, the average annual U.S. assistance Pakistan received over the last 15 years is not more than USD 650 million an year, which remains less than one percent of the country’s budget.


Ignoring Facts
While unreasonably blaming Pakistan for its Afghan woes, the U.S. leadership completely ignores the fact that no other country assisted the United States the way Pakistan did in the war against terrorism.
Pakistan is the world’s only country that defeated terrorists without any foreign assistance, establishing the state writ even in those remote parts of the country where it never existed before. Pakistan Armed Forces successfully cleared terrorist safe havens including from North Waziristan in successive operations at huge sacrifices.


In order to address the concerns of Kabul and U.S.-led NATO forces regarding the alleged cross-border infiltration, Pakistan has started fencing its more than 2,600-kilometer long frontiers with Afghanistan, establishing new posts and introducing the border management system. But these measures are not being matched by Afghanistan, which in a bizarre manner, is opposing the fencing and the border management system. The Afghans and the U.S.-led forces also are doing little to monitor or man the international border to check the flow of terrorists from Afghanistan into Pakistan.


The Afghan Taliban have managed to gain ground in many parts of Afghanistan because the U.S. led forces failed to put boots on the ground, while the Afghan Army lacks the capacity and ability to stand on its own against this indigenous resistance movement.


Pakistan also has been urging Kabul for the repatriation of millions of Afghan refugees, which will help in curbing the narcotics trade as well as fighting terrorism. Pakistan has also offered for intelligence sharing time and again for prompt action against terrorists.

 

These allegations mainly stem from the fact that despite spending trillions of dollars in its longest ever war, the United States and its allies failed to achieve their goals in the land-locked Central Asian state. Pakistan was made a scapegoat to divert attention from the policy and military failures of the U.S.-led NATO forces.

In a nutshell, the blame game will lead Pakistan and the United States nowhere in the fight against terrorism. By targeting and victimizing Pakistan only the narrative of terrorists and extremists is being strengthened which remains a bad omen in this war. The U.S. belligerence will also strengthen those political and religious forces in Pakistan which firmly stand opposed to any cooperation with the United States in the war against terrorism.


Main Bulwark
Pakistan Armed Forces and state institutions serve as the main bulwark against terrorism and extremism in the region. They are not just holding together this nation of more than 200 million people but also stopping the tide of extremism from spreading across South and Central Asia.


Any attempts to weaken or damage these institutions would not just throw Pakistan into an unprecedented turmoil and aggravate an already dangerous situation in Afghanistan, but plunge the entire South Asia including India into a chaos, where religious, sectarian and ethnic fault-lines run deep and wide.


The United States’ myopic policies of blaming Pakistan, which has rendered huge sacrifices in the war against terrorism, will lead the two countries nowhere. The solution lies in cooperation, building trust, addressing Pakistan’s concerns regarding Afghanistan and helping resolve its unresolved issues, including the protracted Kashmir dispute with India.


On many fronts Pakistani and U.S. interests converge. There are more reasons to cooperate in the fight against extremism and terrorism than to confront. But it should remain clear that while Pakistan and its people desire close and friendly relations with the United States and all neighbours, it will stand up for its core national interests come what may.

 

The writer is an eminent journalist who regularly contributes for print and electronic media.

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Twitter: @AmirZia1

 
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