Pakistan
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Pakistan has demanded immediate and effective action from US forces against havens harboring militants and miscreants on the Afghan soil, which are causing havoc inside Pakistan. The National Security Committee(NSC) was chaired by Premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and attended by services chiefs, the spymaster, and key cabinet members to discuss possible responses to the new US South Asia policy.

The strongly-worded statement read: “More specifically, we would like to see effective and immediate US military efforts to eliminate sanctuaries harboring terrorists and miscreants on the Afghan soil, including those responsible for fomenting terror in Pakistan.”

Pakistan has time and again pointed out the presence of hideouts in Afghanistan which are planning terrorist attacks inside Pakistan. However, the US had brushed aside this narrative. Trump while rolling out the new South Asia policy flayed Pakistan for its alleged support for terrorism in Afghanistan. The speech has been followed by tough statements by the top US officials, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson even threatening strikes inside Pakistani territory. He said: “We are going to attack terrorists wherever they live, and we have put people on notice that if you are harboring or providing safe haven to terrorists, be warned, be forewarned.”

The NSC enunciated the need for neighbors to eliminate terrorists from their areas.The statement read: “Pakistan is committed to not allowing its soil to be used for violence against any other country. We expect the same from our neighbors.”

Rejecting allegations

The statement of the NSC confirmed earlier reports that Pakistan will talk tough with the US. The military and civilian leadership took exceptions to the tirade against Pakistan. The statement read: “The Committee out rightly rejected the specific allegations and insinuations made against Pakistan.”

The US has passed the buck of its inability to control the simmering situation in Afghanistan on Pakistan’s alleged support for a handful of terrorists. The NSC noted: “It was observed that to scapegoat Pakistan will not help in stabilizing the situation.”

Pakistan has undertaken counter-terrorism operations against terrorists of all hue and color. This has vociferously conveyed to all actors by the military leadership; the Army Chief has also alluded to it in his discussions with US officials. The statement also reiterated it: “On its own part, Pakistan has taken indiscriminate actions against all terrorist networks and sacrificed tens of thousands of troops and civilians in this fight.”

The top security committee derided the impression that safe havens are present inside Pakistan. The considerable improvement in the country’s security profile is a result of dispossessing terrorists of their areas and sanctuaries. Pakistan’s CT operations cleared, held and built areas which were once the fiefdoms of various local and foreign militants.

Trump had pointed out in his speech that Islamabad has been pumped-in with billions. The NSC retorted and said that reimbursements only covered a part of facilities that the country gives to the US forces in shape of land and air corridors. Pakistan has time and again said that it needs recognition for its meritorious sacrifices in the war against terror.

The chatter is that Pakistan can do without US aid since it is already declining; the US leverage in this regard is fast-diminishing. In a nutshell, the NSC showed the willingness to continue lending support to the stability in Afghanistan but not at the cost of its own vital interests.

The Delhi factor

Pakistan’s main concerns in Afghanistan are those related to India, for it fears that India will encircle Islamabad. Trump’s invitation to India to shoulder responsibilities in Afghanistan will not only stoke up regional tensions but will also give new bite to the already-simmering ties between India and Pakistan.

The NSC took serious exceptions to the proposed induction of India in the Afghan theatre. The statement read: “India cannot be a net security provider in the South Asia region when it has conflictual relationships with all its neighbors and is pursuing a policy of destabilizing Pakistan from the east and the west.”

The country’s supreme security body also noted: “The committee also pointed towards Indian interference in the internal affairs of neighboring countries and use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy.”

Once again the plight of the people of Jammu and Kashmir was mentioned in no uncertain terms. The statement added: “The committee condemned state-inflicted repression on the people of Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir and reiterated Pakistan’s continued diplomatic, political and moral support for their struggle for self-determination.”

The US, on the face of it, maintains a neutral policy on Kashmir but lately, it has defenestrated the Pakistani narrative of it being a freedom struggle. The designation of Salahuddin and Hizbul Mujahideen as a terrorist and terrorist organization is a ratification of the Indian narrative on Kashmir.

Trump’s fears of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of non-state actors were rejected by the NSC. It was stated that Pakistan has an internationally-recognized “robust and credible command and control system” and it is “a responsible nuclear weapon state”.

The fantasy of victory

General Nicholson, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan and the officer whose demand for additional troops has been fulfilled has asserted that Taliban will not win. “The Taliban cannot win on the battlefield; it’s time for them to join the peace process. We will not fail in Afghanistan; our national security depends on that as well.”

This comes after the Taliban said that additional deployment will not break their resolve. While Trump hinted at talks at a later stage but his main focus was on killing terrorists but if the past is any guide then the Taliban is not going to be compelled to crack a deal through the use of force. The NSC iterated that it has and will continue to support an Afghan-led peace process.

One of the options available to Pakistan is to back off from the peace process. Besides, it can pull the plug on the US forces by taking away ALOCs and GLOCs. Perhaps, all this could be done, for Pakistan has the cushion in shape of vehement Chinese support.

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