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News Analysis |

US President Donald Trump ratified the deployment of thousands of more troops in war-torn Afghanistan after months of deliberations and dithering. This is exactly opposite to his pre-elections promises of calling back troops in a financially-draining war.

The US has signed on a protracted war; if anything, the very idea of coercing the Taliban into talks is flawed

Trump who announced the much-awaited Afghan and South Asia strategy in his first formal address as the Commander-in-Chief of US forces, slammed Pakistan for harboring what he called “agents of chaos”. Expectedly, the US top man asked India for help in stabilizing Afghanistan.

As expected, Trump berated Pakistan for providing safe havens to terrorists. He alluded to a new approach toward troubled ally in Pakistan. “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.”

Though Trump talked tough on Pakistan, he did not give out details as to how the US will compel Pakistan to change its course. If chatters are anything to go by, Pakistan may be deprived of its Most Non-Nato Ally status; it could also be declared a state sponsor of terrorism. Besides, the US could step up its drone campaign. “That will have to change and that will change immediately,” Trump said while referring to the need to twist Islamabad.

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Feeling the need for talking from a position of strength Trump hinted at dialogue at a later stage

The Pakistan Army has brushed aside allegations of harboring terrorists time and again. COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa had stressed last week on the need to recognize the country’s meritorious contributions in the war on terror, something which Trump did in his speech.

Pakistan reaffirmed its commitment to fight the menace of terrorism. In a press conference on Monday, DG ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said that there are no terrorist networks in the country today and various US delegations visited the once-afflicted areas themselves.” Even if it comes(stronger policy)… Pakistan shall do whatever is best in the national interest,” said the two-star general.

The US has repeatedly called upon Pakistan to end its alleged support to the Haqqani Network. The US and Afghanistan have put the entire blame of the resurgence of violence in Afghanistan on Pakistan. As of now the Taliban and the ISIS-K for that matter are having the better of Afghan forces with the former controlling more territory than ever before. Pakistan has carried-out CTMILOPS to flush out militants from its soil. The successful completion of Zarb-e-Azb has been followed by the launch of hybrid-operation, Radd ul Fasad, and Khyber 4 to forestall ISIS-K. The ISPR announced the attainment of the latter’s military objectives.

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The wrong start

President Trump appreciated India and called for further strengthening strategic relations. He said that India has played a significant part in stabilizing Afghanistan and wants India to provide more economic assistance and development to Afghanistan. He said: “India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States.”

Trump and his aides had earlier rejected talks with the Taliban. Trump said: “We are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists”

Pakistan has always called upon the US to assuage its fears in regards Afghanistan. Trump’s laudatory references to India in the speech will vitiate ties between Islamabad and Washington, for Pakistan’s Afghan policy is dominated by the fear of encirclement from India.

The fact that the growing Delhi-Washington ties have always worried Pakistan, Trump’s request for help will set the cat among the pigeons in Islamabad. Pakistan is concerned with the proliferation of R&AW activities in Afghanistan to bolster inimical elements for Pakistan.

If anything, an increase in Indian footprints in Afghanistan will compel Pakistan to look for viable support inside Afghanistan, something which the US wants to stop. The US, by the looks of things, will try to create and whip up Sino-Indo rivalry in the Afghan theatre in a bid to forestall the still-nascent influence of Beijing in Afghanistan.

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A long haul

Trump did not give a timeline and the exact number of troop level; he felt that the enemy must not know the plans. However, according to senior officials, Trump has given the go-ahead to add 3,900 more troops to the 8,400 that General Nicholson has under his command. Trump admitted that he wanted to withdraw from this war but things appear different from “behind the desk in the Oval Office”.

The US, by the looks of things, will try to create and whip up Sino-Indo rivalry in the Afghan theatre in a bid to forestall the still-nascent influence of Beijing in Afghanistan

Trump had outsourced the Afghan policy to Generals Mattis and McMaster earlier this year; a troop surge was imminent, to say the least. Trump said that whatever happened in Afghanistan and Iraq in the past was due to hasty withdrawals. Trump said he had concluded “the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable” and leaving a “vacuum” that terrorists “ would instantly fill”.

Trump also reiterated the resolve that the US will win; this echoes the viewpoint of his generals. However, dynamics on the battlefield depict a different story. Analysts question the impact or lack of it of adding a paltry 4,000 troops on the war-fighting resolve of the Taliban. The Taliban has responded saying that it will make Afghanistan a graveyard for the US and will continue fighting till US’ withdrawal.

Pundits point out to the ineffectiveness of the 2010-troop surge where 100,000 troops weren’t able to deliver the goods and hence the Taliban gained more ground. Trump and his aides had earlier rejected talks with the Taliban. Trump said: “We are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists.”

Read more: Will Trump continue the CIA’s cover-up in the JFK assassination?

Trump’s laudatory references to India in the speech will vitiate ties between Islamabad and Washington, for Pakistan’s Afghan policy is dominated by the fear of encirclement from India

However, he went on to say that the US will continue to support the Afghan forces and the government. Feeling the need for talking from a position of strength Trump hinted at dialogue at a later stage. “Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan,” he said adding that he doesn’t know when that may happen.

Trump has laid down a rather vague and timeless strategy which has ruled out an exit anytime soon. The US has signed on a protracted war; if anything, the very idea of coercing the Taliban into talks is flawed. This certainly holds true when Trump wishes to divorce Pakistan, who many believe can bring the warring factions to the talking table.

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