January 5, 2018
President Trump’s Statement about Pakistan is Unrealistic and Unwise
The first tweet posted in 2018 by president Trump from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida was against Pakistan. in that tweet he wrote that, ““The United States has foolishly given 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,” Trump tweeted. “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more! “Close on the heels of that tweet The American administration has withheld the overdue instalment of 255 million dollars to Pakistan. An announcement to that effect was also made by, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley who accused Pakistan of playing "a double game for years". White House says to announce actions on Pakistan within days.
Interestingly in his tweet on October 13, 2017 was in total contrast of his latest anti-Pakistan outburst in that tweet he said that “Starting to develop a much better relationship with Pakistan and its leaders. I want to thank them for their cooperation on many fronts”.
After condemning and rather antagonizing the whole world, president Trump has released his ire on Pakistan which has been a long-time ally of the US in her war in Afghanistan. Its rather astonishing that president Trump is finding scapegoats for debacles in Afghanistan after almost two decades.
The war in Afghanistan was sparked by America in retaliation to the Russian influence and military onslaughts in that bedeviled country which has borders with Pakistan. The United States jumped into the fray not only for blocking Russian hegemony and escalating influence in Afghanistan but to annihilate the religious militant bands as well whose influence after defeat of the Red army was spreading all the country.
The Russian expulsion from Afghanistan was due to the Afghan militants and Pakistan army’s joint efforts. Indeed, it was a huge victory for USA thanks to the combined fight against the Russian Army both by Pakistan and the militants on the side of USA. Later USA and Pakistan under pressure from Americans turned against the militants as the Taliban along with Usama bin Laden,’ faction gaining territory and carrying out major attacks. In that war too, Pakistan practically weakened and ousted most of the Taliban and similar other faction from Afghnistan.
Thus, Afghanistan went through two-phases of warfare: one to ward off Russian hegemony over Afghanistan and the other to stop the rampaging onslaughts of the Taliban led by Usama bin Laden for establishment on an islamic government. After Usama, it was the Haqqani group which continued its guerilla war against the Afghan establishment under various presidents. It was for those war efforts and fighting by Pakistan armed forces that America was providing funding both to the Pakistan army and militants in different periods. Later it was given exclusively to curb the militants.
Although militants have been considerably weakened yet their present activities are being heaped on Pakistan as their collaborator. This accusation is absolutely wrong and baseless as Pakistan herself is the target of those activities by these ragtag militants.
For the first time, the Pakistan government and both the houses of the parliament (Senate and National Assembly) and the opposition parties, have taken a united, right and courageous stand in response to Trump’s denunciation of Pakistan, withholding and refusal to pay the outstanding funds for Afghanistan war and terrorism. They have rejected the insinuation of president Trump and pledged not to be browbeaten by the American president’s false alarm bells.
The Pakistani government retaliated to Trumps tweeting by arguing that the recent comments from president Trump were completely incomprehensible and could damage the trust between the two allies.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Tuesday chaired the meeting of National Security Committee to deliberate upon the way forward in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s recent anti-Pakistani remarks.
Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif argued that the US President’s quoted figure of $33billion given to Pakistan over last 15yrs are false. In this regard he suggested that Trump can hire a US based Audit firm on our expense to verify this figure and let the world know who is lying and deceiving.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif very rightly stated that “He(Trump) is again and again displacing his frustrations on Pakistan over failures in Afghanistan as they are trapped in dead-end street in Afghanistan. “Asif also pointed out that Pakistan did not need U.S. financial aid.
Responding to Trump’s tweet and withholding of $ 255, Dr Miftah Ismail, Adviser to PM on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs, Miftah said in a statement that “President Trump often says things which turn out to be false. He pointed out that Pakistan emerged as the frontline state against terrorism to ensure global peace and faced a colossal damage of over $100 billion to its economy other than the loss of over 50,000 precious lives of troops, policemen and officials of other security agencies and civilians. About the impact of US threat, Miftah said Pakistan’s economic health was safe and bright on account of CPEC related activities. He said Islamabad no more sought the US financial assistance and there was no truth in President Trump’s claim of giving Pakistan $33 billion dollars.
If the relations between USA and Pakistan take a downturn, then this time it would be America which will be more at disadvantage than Pakistan. It should be understood that President Trumps’ threat to Pakistan and denunciation for harboring terrorism is not only unrealistic but a blessing in disguise for Pakistan. In that situation Pakistan would be free to form a regional alliance with Russia, China, Iran and other friendly countries in the region which would be much more useful than what it has been maintaining with the USA all these years.
China and Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and several other countries have negated Trump’s characterization of Pakistan harboring terrorist. They have eulogized Pakistan and acknowledged that Pakistan’s role and sacrifices in Afghanistan were colossal. Any effort to sideline Pakistan and bring it under pressure and branding it as a state sponsoring terrorism is negation of facts and history. Such an attitude towards Pakistan would boomerang against USA and might result in further chaos in Afghanistan. As already stated this time isolating Pakistan internationally and reigniting war in Afghanistan would not be favorable to the United States.
Pakistan is one state which helped America in fighting Taliban and Al-Qaida in Afghanistan for 15 years (2001-2016). If America reignites the same war now against the ISIS and some Taliban factions including the Haqqani Faction, then it will have to fight that war alone. It will have to use the territory of the Central Asian states for transportation of army and military hardware which Russia is not going to allow.
Is president Trump oblivious of the resounding fact that but for Pakistan’s support USA, could have been squarely defeated and indeed humiliated in Afghanistan. Is he aware that since the inception of the first civil war (1979-1989) in Afghanistan against Soviet Union, Pakistan is hosting four million refugees whose children have now also grown up and well settled in Pakistan? As a result, Pakistan immensely suffered economically and regionally due to the
military alliance with USA. Of late, it was with the help of Pakistan that the Navy Seals were able to reach Osama bin Laden and kill him.
It should be understood that the American sponsored war in Afghanistan (2001-2017) is different from the Mujahedeen’s war against the Soviet Union which lasted from December 1979 to February 1989. In the first war the Insurgent groups known as the Mujahideen fought against the Soviet Army and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. In that bloody war around 562,000 to 2,000,000 civilians were killed and millions of Afghans fled the country as refugees mostly to Pakistan and Iran. Ever since Pakistan is hosting millions of Afghan refugees. The children of those Afghan refugees are now settled in Pakistan.
President Trump should understand that now is not the time which was there three decades ago when Pakistan was coerced to join the American military onslaught in Afghanistan to annihilate Taliban as well as root out Russian influence in that country. Later Russia again intervened in that war in 2007.
The uncalled-for anti-Pakistan statement and threat by president Trump perhaps has two motives. One is to detract the American people from his domestic failures and his diminishing image. He is reviving the Bush era adventurism and thus trying to win the support of the pro-war Americans. It is a sordid attempt of finding scape-goats by raising war cries and using tough language against an all-time friendly country Pakistan.
It is also possible that anti- Pakistan rhetoric of Trump is aimed at bolstering and pleasing India which is the irreconcilable foe of Pakistan. It is a known fact that President Trump has Indian business partners and they remain in contact with him. Trump has showered praise and plaudits on India which ostensibly is to belittle Pakistan.
Yet India cannot help USA to wage another war in Afghanistan and prevail. The driving reason is that India doesn’t have direct territorial contacts or routes with Afghanistan like Pakistan or Iran have. As such any alliance or understanding between India and America for war efforts against Taliban, ISIS or ISIL is not going to materialize.
USA wants to enter Afghanistan again and fight which the American president and defense secretary claim to win and prevail. It seems that now USA wants to have direct links with the incumbent Afghanistan administration and replace India with Pakistan for furthering anti- Taliban war. Befriending Afhnistan has another object of present American administration and that is exploit and utilize the precious minerals such as uranium which is plentiful in Afghnistan.
However, all those objectives cannot be attained. On the contrary the with absence of Pakistan from the anti-Taliban war coalition American ad her new allies may never be able to achieve their goals and remain stuck in the quagmire. Understandably America cannot succeed in driving Taliban, ISIS and other religious warriors out of Afghanistan without logistic and other support from Pakistan. Losing Pakistan’s friendship would be more counterproductive for USA as she would lose a trusted ally and friend which brought victory to America in Afghanistan. In that situation, Pakistan will not allow a hostile America to use her territory in order to enter Afghanistan. This would unfetter Pakistan from US over- lordship and move further closer to Russian and Chins which would more natural alignment that being maintained with USA.
Iran also, for obvious reasons, wouldn’t place her routes and land at the disposal of the American army to enter Afghanistan and restart a war against their perceived enemy. Besides America will have to open its financial coffers once again which might cause an adverse economic backlash in USA.
Let us remember that such threats have been issued by president Trump earlier against North Korea by using the slang of “Fire and Fury” which means bombing North Korean and destroying her missile installations. The retort from North Korean president Kim Jong Un was more sarcastic and defying in which he ignored president Trump’s ultimatum and utterances by describing those as a ‘load of nonsense’. Even thereafter, North Korea tested missiles, one of which has the capacity to reach American mainland. Guam Island being used as a military base by USA is just within the reach of North Korean range of missiles. Ludicrously, now Trump has announced to befriend Kim to bring about friendship between the two parts of Korea.
All said and done, this statement about Pakistan being a sponsor of terrorism and host to militants could be another stray outpouring of President Trump. He is in the habit of issuing tough and thoughtless ultimatums and statements but later leaves those in lurch. His announcement to exit from the G-20, erecting a wall between America and Mexico and showering fire and fury on North Korea are meaningless and counterproductive in fostering the American goodwill abroad.
President Trump has been at loggerheads with many countries. Domestically he is fighting a war through tweet against his domestic political opponents, be it the American press, the immigrants, the minority communities and all those who somehow oppose him politically from the Republican or the Democratic Party. It should be instructive for Trump to be sober, less reactive and instead be diplomatic than being ready to throw punches at friend and foes. Lately he has fallen out with his former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and unabashedly heaped innuendoes on him.
Keeping in view his mercurial temperament, knee jerk reactions, unguarded statements and unpredictable behavior, the Senate majority leader Mitch MacDonnell in a private conversation, had said that he was doubtful if president Trump could retain his presidency.
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat. This and other articles by the writer can also be read at his blog www.uprightopinion.com