The new South Asia strategy of USA announced by President Donald Trump had raised several question marks on the performance of Pakistan in fighting terrorism. Though the same policy was adopted by the previous president of USA, yet its continuation by President Trump should be taken seriously. During his speech, President Trump highlighted that the largest concentration of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) was in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The salient features of President Trump,s speech and strategy were as he had assumed full ownership of the Afghan war and the US had shifted from time based approach to one based on conditions.
Trump further seemed conveying that integration of all instruments of American power, diplomatic, economic and military would be used in order to achieve desired results in Afghanistan.
There could be attack on the pattern of Osama Bin Laden (OBL) operation against high target if a major attack took place in Afghanistan and increased frequency of drone attacks in Pakistan. India encouraged by USA could conduct a military and surgical strike inside Pakistan on alleged presence of Lashkar-e-Taiba (Let).
President of USA had assigned top priority to the issue of stabilizing Afghanistan. Pakistan fears that any terrorist attack in Afghanistan would entail drone attacks on Pakistan and the attacks could be extended to settled areas. Local Afghan commanders had been give more powers which could lead to frequent border skirmishes with Pakistan.
He accused Pakistan for providing safe havens to agents of chaos, violence and terror to which USA would no longer be a silent spectator. He blamed Pakistan for harbouring terrorists. However, he emphasized that Pakistan would gain by partnering with USA and would lose if kept on harbouring the terrorists. He emphasized on strengthening of strategic partnership with India and acknowledged her contribution in stabilizing Afghanistan. Trump also sought cooperation from India in the areas of economic assistance and development for stabilizing Afghanistan. In new strategy, enhanced powers had been given to US military in engaging the enemy.
President Trump had also given new definition of victory; attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing Al-Qaeda, preventing Taliban from taking over Afghanistan and stopping mass terror against America. Further, US would ask the NATO allies and global partners to support new strategy.
Though there was no specific time limit mentioned by the US president for measuring the success of his strategy, yet it was presumed that he would like ot seek results before the end of his term in 2020 and it would be likely that he demanded immediate compliance from Afghanistan, India, NATO allies and Pakistan.
Possible implications for Pakistan
The new strategy would have regional implications.USA would seek alignment of policies of USA, India and Afghanistan against Pakistan. More rhetoric would be used against Pakistan and would be held responsible for the failure of US efforts in Afghanistan. Simultaneously, the allies of Pakistan including European Europe would be pressurized to isolate Pakistan. It could make visa regime stringent for Pakistan specially the armed forces and create negative image of Pakistan in the global community and initiate the process of declaring Pakistan state sponsor terrorism.
It could initiate debate in UN Security Council with regard to our alleged role in Afghanistan and asked the EU and other countries to initiate measures for reduction of trade with Pakistan. There could be serious financial implications for Paksitan.US could use International financial institutions to reduce development assistance to Pakistan especially major energy related projects.
Pakistan could also face discontinuation of coalition support fund (CSF) and total elimination of security assistance and could pressurize Chinese private investment which would in turn compromise the projects related to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).Cost of investment could be increased by using the threat of financial action task force (FATA) for non-compliance with UN Security Council. There could be attack on the pattern of OBL operation against high target if a major attack took place in Afghanistan and increased frequency of drone attacks in Pakistan. India encouraged by USA could conduct a military and surgical strike inside Pakistan on alleged presence of Let etc.
Pakistan feels that that USA had totally overlooked the efforts of Pakistan in weeding out terrorists. Though the USA president had acknowledged the sacrifices of Pakistan in a passing remark, yet he did not give due importance to its role in fighting terrorist outfits. The government had undertaken operations Zarb-e-Azb, Radd ul Fassad and Khyber-4 of its own initiative which had broken the back of terrorists in Pakistan.
In a meeting held in foreign office, USA Ambassador in Pakistan showed concern over long range missiles and tactical weapons. He also expressed concern over tension between Pakistan and India and offered USA,s role as mediator to diffuse the tension rather than resolving the issues. USA could put more pressure on Pakistan to conclude Pathan Kot and Mumbai Attack cases to the satisfaction of India and declare Kashmir freedom fighters as terrorist. Early action was required on all fronts to counter the US narrative.
Pakistan’s strategy to counter USA
The speech was not unexpected as President Trump had shown his tensions during his election campaign. The foreign office has advised the government that Pakistan should emphasize that war against terror was Pakistan,s own fight and had not been fighting on behalf of USA. The funding by USA under CSF was negligible as compared to the loss incurred during the war against terror. It further said that Pakistan should engage regional countries-Iran, Russia, Turkey and China. In addition, OIC and Saudi Arabia should be contacted in order to make concerted efforts to dispel the negative impact of the new US strategy. Pakistan should devise short and long terms strategies to counter the US narrative. CPEC projects had ruffled USA and it wanted to prop up India in the region for sabotaging CPEC projects. Moreover, USA also wanted to assuage the grievances of India in terms of nuclear tactical weapons.
Foreign office further said that Pakistan should give detailed response once the issue is discussed in National Security Committee and after carrying out measured analysis of the situation and its implications on Pakistan and the region. Pakistan should give graceful and dignified response and foreign office further said that diplomacy may be intensified by sending envoys to friendly neighboring countries.
President Donald Trump has announced Afghan policy in South Asia which had created rift between Pakistan and United States (US).Even, Pakistan had disengaged contacts with US and a delegation of US was stopped to visit Pakistan. Pakistan felt that there were two clear messages in the Afghan Trump Policy.US had cleared the role of India and Pakistan in the South Asia. In Policy, Trump tried to establish that it would give lead role to India in South Asia and Afghanistan. It warned Pakistan to minimize its role if it did not take action against Haqqani network. India is an arch rival of Pakistan and therefore, military of Pakistan was upset over it. The other thing is that Trump gave powers to US commanders in Afghanistan to take decision. Pakistan felt that it means that they could launch offensive on ground against hideouts which US believed that they were in Pakistan.Pakistan had always denied that leadership of Kaqqani network had shifted into Afghanistan.The other thing which was matter of concern for Pakistan was Pakistan atomic nuclear program.There had been lot of discussions in Pakistan that After Iran, Pakistan nuclear program would be target.Now, Pakistan authorities felt that Pakistan could face sanctions due to nuclear program as US could impose restrictions on Pakistan,s nuclear program.
Pakistan military establishment felt that Trump spoke in his speech by announcing Afghan Policy what India wanted and India had been making propaganda against Pakistan. They felt that US wanted to serve the interest of India.
After Trump policy , there are two opinions in Pakistan.One group wanted that Pakistan should say good by to US and good go into camp of China and Russia. Other school of thoughts says that US was superpower and Pakistan could not face sanctions. Therefore, US should be engaged to stablise Afghanistan.
However, government of Pakistan was mounting pressure on US. Trump had visited Saudi Arabia and inked multibillion dollars arms deal. This is why Pakistan felt that Saudi Arabia had upper hand on Saudi Arabia. Moreover, Saudi Arabia has been big financer of Taliban and also supporting Afghan Taliban to make them powerful against Iran.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi visited Saudi Arabia and asked for support. Saudi leadership acknowledged sacrifices of Pakistan in fight against terrorism.
But Saudi Arabia did not extend open support to Pakistan as Iran, Russia, China and Tajikistan had done. Saudi Arabia wants Pakistan to end relations with Iran and Qatar. Pakistan can afford cut of relations with Iran but present government did not want to cut relations with Qatar.
However, other options for Pakistan are China, Russia and Turkey. Trump,s policy had pushed Pakistan to even Russia. Now, it seems clear that new block was emerging comprising Pakistan, China, Turkey, Russia and Iran.
USA also felt that Iran and Russia were interfering in Afghanistan. Pakistan, China and Russia were on the same page regarding Afghanistan and were also supporting Afghan Taliban. They had even demanded to remove sanctions imposed by US against them. China had also been active in Afghanistan reconciliation process which had upset USA.USA also felt that China and Russia were going to take lead role in Afghanistan reconciliation process. This is why US was mounting pressure on Pakistan to take action against Haqqani network.
Role of SCO
The SCO seems to be gaining its influence in the region to shape geopolitical policies when Pakistani government announced to defer visit of USA by foreign minister Khawaja Asif. Foreign minister said that he would visit China and Russia first to take consultations and then visit USA to engage them in dialogue. This was a big blow to USA. Pakistani side had made it clear to Trump administration that Pakistan had also other partners in the region like Russia and China and would engage them in case of isolation by USA.
Russia and China were active players of SCO. It appeared that Pakistan was seeking support of SCO member countries after becoming member of its block. It is a big threat for USA.
Officials believed that Russia was playing its cards to neutralize the influence of USA in the region. It had engagement with China who was a strategic partner of Pakistan. It also engaged Pakistan and China on Afghan Taliban issue. Trump policy does not become an issue and rather an opportunity for Russia and Pakistan to find new partners in this region.