The News International newspaper of Pakistan compiled this report about recent remark of US president Donald Trump while spelling out his policy for south Asia:
According to Bloomberg, “Trump’s new strategy to turn around the 16-year conflict in Afghanistan will probably falter for a reason few of his voters would realize: China. Trump publicly tried to pressure Pakistan ….. But this aspect of the Afghan strategy is likely to founder because of China’s increasingly close economic ties with Pakistan, which reduces American leverage.
With more than $50 billion in planned infrastructure projects and strong diplomatic support for its positions, American threats to withdraw billions in military aid are becoming less worrying for the powerful army, which dominates foreign policy.”
“China is the shield now,” said Harsh Pant, an international relations professor at King’s College London. “The more aid America will cut, Pakistan will be expecting China to fill the vacuum.”
Pakistan has long denied it harbours terrorists. China’s support for its ally means Pakistan doesn’t need to alter course.
The Forbes magazine criticized Pakistan by citing the April 17 issue of Current History: “Nonetheless, America continued to scale up its support for Pakistan for many more years. More than fifteen years have passed since the United States launched operations in Afghanistan, ostensibly with the support of Pakistan,” notes Fair. “During this period, the Americans scaled up and then scaled down troop deployments and investments in Afghanistan’s economy, infrastructure, civil society, and armed forces, but never managed to deal with the simple fact that, throughout this war, they have depended on one country that was steadfastly opposed to US and NATO objectives: Pakistan.
That’s good news for India that now has America on its side in its efforts to maintain influence in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to contain China in its northern border.
Meanwhile, America’s major policy shift in the region couldn’t come at a worse time for Pakistan’s equity markets, which have already been suffering hefty losses from corruption scandals that brought down the Sharif government.”
According to Washington Post, President Trump said: “Today, 20 US-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan — the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world.”
A presidential address to the nation is usually carefully vetted for factual accuracy. That’s not always the case for President Trump’s speeches, but extra care appeared to have been taken for his speech on the strategy on Afghanistan. Still, this number — 20 US-designated foreign terrorist organizations in Afghanistan and Pakistan — jumped out at us. It seemed rather high. Where did this number come from?
The Facts: The secretary of state designates foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs), and Trump’s phrasing suggested that he was referring to the list of FTOs maintained by the State Department. But when we asked the White House where this number came from, an official pointed to congressional testimony by Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the commander of US Central Command. But here’s the problem: The State Department only lists 13 FTOs as active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with one (Hizbul Mujahideen) being added just last week.
Indeed, the White House sent us a list of 20 purported terrorist organizations that were designated, and only 12 were on the official State Department list.
As far we can tell, the only source for this statistic is Gen. John W. Nicholson, the US commander in Afghanistan. In interviews, news briefings and congressional testimony, he has repeatedly said that “of the 98 US designated terrorist groups globally, 20 are in the AF/PAK region.” His statements have then turned up in news reports, such as in the New York Times.
So where did Nicholson get his figure? His spokesman, Navy Capt. William K. Salvin, said that he added entities designated by the Treasury Department and State Department as providing financial support to terror groups under Executive Order (EO) 13224, issued by President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks.
But adding together FTOs and EO designations really mixes apples and oranges, as some of the EO designations are for providing support to terrorist groups instead of being a terrorist group itself. That’s the reason the State Department has the legal authority to designate foreign terrorist organizations, and why the FTO list is considered the gold standard.
The total number of FTOs designated by the State Department is 62, not 98. We asked for further clarification from the White House but did not get a reply. The White House really needs to do a better job of quality control for important speeches. Rather than rely on a statistic ginned up by a field commander, someone should have called the State Department and double-checked whether it was valid to use this figure.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Trump’s new strategy face a potential challenge because of the rising fortunes of Imran Khan, a popular politician, a fierce critic of the US policy, who maintains that Pakistan’s anti-terror alliance caused destruction in Pakistan and gave rise to violence.
Former US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, wrote in the New York Times, advising Trump to show an unflagging commitment to the cause and be prepared to respond to moves by adversaries to disrupt his plan. He said the president must be ready for Pakistan to resist and test his resolve. This might come in the form of attacks on American assets in Afghanistan or of interference with supply routes across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Pakistan’s security apparatus will try to prove that the United States cannot succeed without cooperating on Islamabad’s terms.
A major change from the Obama era is Trump’s decision to give American commanders in the field the flexibility they’ve long sought in assisting the Afghan forces fighting the Taliban and other insurgents. The president also adopted a realistic position regarding peace talks, moving away from President Barack Obama’s pursuit of reconciliation regardless of the deteriorating military situation.
In another write-up, The New York Times says Pakistani officials have cited Indian influence as a primary cause of instability and insecurity in Afghanistan. Officials in Islamabad accuse India of supporting a hostile political regime in Kabul and funding militants, who use Afghanistan as a base to launch attacks inside Pakistan.
Pakistani officials said they expected private contractors to take a more dominant role than troops already in Afghanistan. Senior Pakistani security officials stress that an all-inclusive engagement is the only option for peace inside Afghanistan. More troops inside the country, along with blaming Pakistan for harboring terrorists, will not work, they said in background interviews.
Sehar Kamran, an opposition senator who leads an Islamabad-based think tank, said Mr. Trump’s plan appeared to be “more of the same, under much more colorful language and contradictory bluster.”
Ms. Kamran said that pushing India to play a stronger role inside Afghanistan would isolate Washington’s friends in Islamabad “without realizing, understanding or perhaps deliberately underestimating the impact of increasing Indian presence on Pakistan’s western border.”
“An unnecessary flexing of military muscles and the deployment of additional troops at this time will only undo much that has been achieved over many years diplomatically, and serve to further antagonize regional countries like Pakistan, China and Russia,” she said.
“Pakistan is prepared to absorb the impact of a more assertive US policy toward the country,” said Arif Rafiq, a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington. “It’s the most economically stable that it’s been in a decade, thanks in part to massive Chinese investment, and it has managed to secure much of its border regions despite the withdrawal of most US combat forces.”
He said that Pakistan also knows that it has several options to counter punitive actions by Washington, including closing supply routes to Afghanistan.
James Stavridis, former US admiral and supreme commander of Nato allied forces, wrote in Foreign Policy Magazine: The options are bad in Afghanistan. We could cut our losses (2,400 Americans dead, $1 trillion spent) and depart — but that would eventually lead to another Vietnam moment, with helicopters lifting off the roof of the US Embassy. Another approach would be to return to a robust NATO-led operation with 150,000 troops doing the actual fighting, which was the size of the force when I ran the Afghan war as supreme allied commander in 2009-2013. But there is no appetite for that level of commitment on either side of the Atlantic, and, frankly, the entire world wrestles with profound Afghan fatigue.”
He said: The new strategy is hardly new, and sometimes the best Plan B is to work harder and smarter at Plan A. Kudos to the president’s generals for landing him on a glide path that makes strategic and tactical sense, albeit an option that is merely the least worst next move in the long-running great game of Afghanistan.
According to CNN, Trump has always insisted he’s all about winning. But on Monday night, as he laid out his new strategy for Afghanistan, America got to see how its new President confronted what many experts believe is a no-win situation: a war that has dragged on with no end in sight for 16 years. Trump declares US will ‘win’ in Afghanistan, but gives few details. Trump laced his prime-time speech with volleys of bold language that might be expected from a new commander-in-chief taking over a failing war. His plans hardly seem sufficiently sweeping to unlock the victory that eluded Presidents George W. Bush and Obama in a nation that is treacherous for foreign invaders.
They are also unlikely to significantly change calculations among Taliban leaders and in Pakistan’s military.
Chicago Tribune said: The speech was a model of bold phrases and grand promises unsupported by any specifics that would indicate the president has any idea how to make his vision into reality. It doesn’t tell us much when Trump makes declarations such as, “We will push onward to victory. He thinks loosening the restrictions on how our forces fight will make a big difference. But those restrictions are designed to minimize civilian casualties — partly because killing innocents unnecessarily is morally wrong and partly because it antagonizes Afghans, thus increasing the number of people willing to fight against us.
Trump also claims he will force Pakistan to stop providing a safe haven for the Taliban, extract more economic aid from India and persuade our NATO allies to up their involvement in the war. This is not a plan; it’s a letter to Santa Claus.
Pakistan has vital interests at stake that take precedence over ours — not to mention leverage that has made it largely impervious to the demands of American presidents. The United States, reports Reuters, “has no choice but to use Pakistani roads to resupply its troops in landlocked Afghanistan. US officials worry that if Pakistan becomes an active foe, it could further destabilize Afghanistan and endanger US soldiers.”
India is not about to let Washington dictate its policy toward a neighbour — and more Indian involvement would worsen our relations with Pakistan. Trump has done nothing to make our allies in Europe want to knock themselves out on our behalf.
Trump indulged in such fierce, uncompromising rhetoric for an obvious reason: to distract Americans from how puny his plan is and how meager his goals. He promises victory, but all he can realistically hope to do is stave off defeat — at the cost of more American lives and $25 billion a year.
According to Los Angeles Times, citing analysts isolating Pakistan could unsettle the US relationship with Islamabad and push it closer to Russia, China and Iran, further complicating efforts to stabilize the region.
“The idea of US leverage in Pakistan is deeply exaggerated,” Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the US-based Wilson Center’s Asia Program, said in an email to The Associated Press a day after Trump’s speech. “No matter the punishment, policy, or inducement, there’s little reason to believe that Pakistan will change its ways.”
According to an analysis in The Guardian, “instead of maintaining a policy of careful diplomacy, the US president’s attack on the country has gifted China greater influence in an unstable region. … This is a serious strategic mistake.”
The Economist said: “It will still remain difficult for America to reach a point where it can claim success in Afghanistan. Mr. Trump’s insistence that he is not in the business of nation-building is all very well. But without progress by the dysfunctional Afghan government towards delivering security and basic services, the Taliban will retain support in the Pushtun south and east of the country. Nor is there much prospect of enlisting the help of Afghanistan’s neighbours.”
A report in The Diplomat said: China seems to be the only nation that dare to defend Pakistan against the United States. What’s interesting is that Pakistan’s attitude shifted to high-profile after Pakistan gained China’s “strong support” after Trump’s speech. Later on August 22, Pakistan’s foreign ministry published another emotional and lengthy statement to fire back at the US.