Muhammad Ali Ehsan |
My first impression after hearing President Trump’s speech was – does it serve our interest to be so diplomatically humiliated from the highest podium through a speech by the most powerful person leading the most powerful country in the world?
Conspiracy theories aside, were enough efforts made by our political and military leadership to make a strong case to justify to the world that we are not what we have been repeatedly accused of – a ‘safe heaven’ for ‘the agents of chaos, violence, and terror’? After all, it has been a while that such accusations have been hurled at us and we knew that the Trump administration will also cling on to the previous US administrations views about us.
The Indian tilt in the new Afghan policy is actually that side. In its present form, Trump’s new Afghan policy seems doomed to fail
Then why we still failed to prevent the exaggerated muscular language that the President of USA used to insult and defame us as a nation? Insulted we were but why didn’t we see it coming? If politics was doing in this country what it ideally should do – serve the people and uphold the honor, dignity, and pride of the nation, would the American President subject us as a nation to such humiliation? We actually dishonored ourselves by not doing our job.
Humiliated we have been, because we have together with the USA, fought this war against terror for 17 long years and have the highest rate of sacrifices (both military and civilians) per day by any armed forces in the world. This is no doubt a nation of brave men and women who together offered sacrifices not only in men, material, and resources but also the peace and tranquility of a civic life.
Indian interference in Pakistan by utilizing Afghan land and executing destabilizing operations in Pakistan and the state terrorism it executes to suppress a genuine freedom struggle in Kashmir
But despite all the sacrifices, we have been found worthy of contempt and not praise? Why is the world not ready to trust us? If we don’t harbor terrorists, why is the world not ready to listen to us? Did we even try hard enough to justify our stance? Our key rival being praised and tipped to be the key component and strategic partner in the new Afghan strategy and us being relegated and accused of being a country too uncivilized that needs to demonstrate its commitment to ‘civilization, order, and peace’ – Have we been misjudged?
Regardless of the American President’s very harsh comments against Pakistan and the gloom and doom scenario, it has created in this country, if Washington has lost its head should we lose ours? What can we do as a nation? Should we stone wall against the American accusations? Promote and advertise our national perseverance and resilience and our ability to face external challenges that we have done before and will be ready and well prepared to do again? Persuade the domestic, regional and international audience that this new policy which seems to muscle its way forward is least likely to win the American President the Afghan war and thus may be short on shelf life?
Daesh may not have come into existence had the two American presidents not made these strategic mistakes
Consider disengagement from American patronage who is now the best friend of our enemy (India) and the enemy of our friend (China)? Seek a new partnership and patronage (China, Russia); most important of them all let the Americans know in no uncertain terms that we will do everything to safeguard and protect our core national interest and sovereignty regardless of American wishes?
These are the range of choices but considering that Pak-US relations have most definitely been damaged by this Trump speech, can the two countries still do anything to begin them afresh?
The current US President is nothing like the 44 before him. Everything he has done since he has come to power demonstrates that he sees the world not as a place where countries work together to solve problems but as an arena where they only compete for advantage. His predecessor’s words spoken in 2008 campaign speech in Berlin reflect the change of mindset that the change of presidency in Washington brings.
Military actions will only cause further resurgence of jihadism both in Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan and that will not be in the regional and US interest
Former president Barack Obama said in that speech, ‘no one nation, no matter how large and how powerful, can defeat challenges alone’. Praising the virtues of allies, he further said they must ‘listen to each other, learn from each other and most of all trust each other’. President Obama wanted to get away from ‘over reliance of force that characterized the Bush era’ and the disastrous military invasion of Iraq as well as Afghanistan.
Many say that Obama was awarded Nobel peace prize simply for not being George W Bush. Living in a world more plagued with terrorism than when President Obama was in office, the American people should be more concerned that the current President doesn’t feed into the terrorist agenda. His clear shift in emphasis only to ‘military responses’ in the new Afghan policy will surely be a recipe for inviting further terrorists blow back.
The new Afghan policy, the American President says, ‘is to make Taliban understand that they will not win battlefield victory’. On the contrary, what the Taliban have pursued as their military objective is only to prevent the Americans from achieving and declaring such a victory.
President Obama was in office, the American people should be more concerned that the current President doesn’t feed into the terrorist agenda
Americans have not been able to do so in the last 17 years and would not be able to do so even in the next 100 years if all they do is try and muscle forward the Afghan affairs through military actions alone. Military actions will only cause a further resurgence of jihadism both in Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan and that will not be in the regional and US interest. Military actions, drones, bombs, and loans are not the way forward, US policy goals in the region can only be furthered and reining in of Taliban is possible only by providing them political space.
The rise of ISIS also has got everything to do with the two former US President’s policies. Bush use of brute force and Obama’s decision to pull out US forces from Iraq, pre-maturely, paved way for the rise of ISIS. Daesh may not have come into existence had the two American presidents not made these strategic mistakes.
President Obama wanted to get away from ‘over reliance of force that characterized the Bush era’ and the disastrous military invasion of Iraq as well as Afghanistan
More than military muscle, the Trump administration should rely on ‘preventive policies’ to reduce the underlying causes of terrorism. A combination of low key military actions targeting the terrorist leadership, continuity of security and economic assistance to both Afghanistan and Pakistan, emphasis on diplomacy leading to the possibility of successful dialogue with Taliban and joint Pakistan-Afghanistan intensive surveillance and border management are some of the low risk preventive policy tools that the new Afghan policy must incorporate.
Lastly, what the President Trump considered least significant to mention in his speech, is that Pakistan remains most determined to alter – the Indian interference in Pakistan by utilizing Afghan land and executing destabilizing operations in Pakistan and the state terrorism it executes to suppress a genuine freedom struggle in Kashmir which Pakistan has all the right to morally support.
For President Trump to win the war in Afghanistan, his new Afghan policy should be just and transparent and not weigh heavily in the favor of any single stake holder. Washington’s room to maneuver in changing the course of the Afghan war will be hugely constrained if it ends up taking sides. The Indian tilt in the new Afghan policy is actually that side. In its present form, Trump’s new Afghan policy seems doomed to fail.
It seems that the next American president may also win a Nobel Prize – for not being Donald Trump.
Dr. Muhammad Ali Ehsan, did his doctorate in International Relations from Karachi Univ; where he also teaches. His Phd work is on ‘Civil Military Relations in Pakistan’. He served for 25 years, in Pakistan Army, and remained an Instructor in Pakistan Military Academy. He tweets at: @Muhammadaliehsa