United States President Donald Trump’s warnings to Pakistan in his policy statement on Afghanistan notwithstanding, recent visits of two US military delegations to Pakistan confirm that those overseeing US’ Afghan policy before Trump’s arrival in the Oval Office know quite well that there is no endgame in troubled region without Pakistan.
One of these was led by CENTCOM chief General Joseph Votel and the other by Commanding General US Army Central (USARCENT) Lt General Michael Garrett. Gen Votel appreciated Pakistan’s efforts as well as sacrifices for the cause of maintaining peace in the region, and said that stronger military cooperation with Pakistan is important.
But it remains unclear if those overseeing the Afghan policy of the US are fully aware of the consequences of Trump’s calls to India to increase its role in Afghanistan. For such calls aren’t going to sit well with many in Pakistan, particularly given the prevailing environment at the Line of Control in Kashmir.
Already Chinese Foreign Office has given a statement in support of Pakistan and emphasised the importance of a trilateral Pak-Afghan-China foreign ministers forum in attaining peace in Afghanistan.
This reflects the changing balance of power in the region. Economically and militarily, China is stronger than it has ever been and it is exploring projects to spread its influence in the region. Therefore, the US may not exercise as much leverage on Pakistan as it may have until recently – given Pakistan can now look benefits expected from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.
On Monday, President Trump also threatened to cut off all military aid to Pakistan and he clarified in no uncertain terms that Pakistan should not let its territory be used as a safe haven for militant outfits – not just those operating in Afghan territory but also those active in Indian-occupied Kashmir. Pakistani military has already undertaken several operations in tribal areas, including North Waziristan, clearing these from militant outfits. It has clarified that several times now that it is interested in establishing the writ of the state in tribal areas and dismantling militant outfits without discrimination as that is truly in our national interest.
Meanwhile, Trump’s claim that the US has been ripped off by Pakistan is rather uncalled for. When it comes to the sheer magnitude of casualties in the US-led Global War on Terror, Pakistan and the US have almost the same number of military casualties, while US fought two full-blown wars in other countries’ territories and Pakistan has only defended its own sovereign territory and its citizens. Pakistan has suffered because of its participation in this war, militarily, economically and socially. The least Trump administration can do in such a situation is recognise these losses and Pakistan’s role in regional peace.
Daily Times, August 23, 2017