The final countdown has begun. At the end of this month Donald Trump is set for another bout of Pakistan grandstanding. Naturally, in keeping with recent American presidential traditions, he will not set foot in this country himself. No, instead he will be dispatching his top military and diplomatic advisers, including the usual suspects, Mattis and Tillerson. Their briefing will be just that, brief. In other words, they will play on loop the message that Pakistanis have become rather bored of hearing: do more to flush out terrorist safe-havens.
But a few weeks is a long time in politics, especially when it comes to Trump town.
Already Pakistan has responded. With our Foreign Minister having confirmed that he made an offer to the Americans that they, by rights, shouldn’t be able to refuse. Namely, that they are welcome to shimmy on over here with credible intelligence on the purported whereabouts of the Haqqani network safe-havens and then US troops — alongside their Pakistani counterparts — will conduct joint military operations to take to task these baddies. Not only that, Khawaja Asif also confirmed that our COAS made the same offer to the Afghan leadership during his recent visit to Kabul.
It’s good to see the civvies and the khakis on the exact same page. Especially when it comes to placing the ball firmly and squarely in Washington’s court. For far too long has the US adopted a reductive approach the Pakistan’s alleged support for unsavoury elements. It is a view that placed the country’s security apparatus as their sole custodians; whilst overlooking how the civilians have also played along with the good and bad Taliban distinction. Though, of course, the Pakistani Taliban don’t interest the US much given how it is the Pakistani state — and not the American military across the border in Afghanistan — which these groups have in their sights.
For the time being, however, such a proposal remains academic. As the issue of joint Pak-US military operations would, in theory, have to go before Parliament. Nevertheless, it is one worth exploring. In terms of Trump putting his military might where his mouth is. Or put another way: Pakistan is quite possibly calling the American bluff.
And there is nothing much wrong with this. Not when one considers that the US endgame in Afghanistan is skewered. Its only goal being to ensure that the latter doesn’t become an all out terrorist safe-haven. Which is another way of saying that the strategic priority is to kill and then kill some more. This, of course, is no policy at all. The way to secure peace is to go back to the basics of nation building, something that Obama took off the Afghan table in 2014. Otherwise what the US will have on its hands and what we will have in our backyard is an open-ended fight. Against an entity that has not been designated a terrorist group by anyone. The US must also keep in mind what President Ashraf Ghani said just last week: he wants to see US and NATO troops out of his country within four years. He also wants to see a negotiated peace with the Taliban.
Thus by the time the Americans touchdown in Pakistan we hope they will have realised one thing. They are the ones out of sync here.
Daily Times, October 11, 2017